Iran lobbies hard as UN prepares to call for cease-fire in Gulf war
United Nations, N.Y.
As the UN Security Council moves toward adoption, probably this week, of a strong new call for a cease-fire in the Persian Gulf war, Iranian diplomats here are working hard to have their position taken into account in the final resolution. The draft resolution - put together behind closed doors by the five permanent Council members - provides a trigger that could eventually lead to sanctions if either of the combatants refuses to agree to the cease-fire. But it is, in effect, pressure directed toward Iran, which has boycotted past Council deliberations because the UN has never declared Iraq the aggressor in the war.
The ``big five'' powers (Britain, France, China, the Soviet Union, and the United States) say they want both parties to be able to accept the resolution. But some members of the Council, particularly Japan and West Germany, charge that US public statements and actions have been counterproductive, continuously provoking and alienating the Iranians.
Others feel, however, that the American pressure has had the desirable effect of making Iran take a hard look at its position.
The Iranians have argued that the resolution should first declare who is responsible for the war before calling for a cease-fire.
``If they come up with this judgment that Iraq initiated the war and is the aggressor party, then the Security Council is in a position to call for a cease-fire, and it will be considered, and, in my view, it will be accepted,'' says an Iranian diplomat at the UN.
``But as long as the Security Council does not determine that Iraq is the aggressor, ... Iran will not accept it, and will further distance itself from the UN,'' he adds.
So far, the Council has been unwilling to take that step.
A key factor appears to be doubts some members have that the Iranians are in a position, because of internal divisions, to accept even a resolution that incorporates their amendments.
An ambassador from one of the nonaligned Council member states indicates that he could support the Iranian position - if the Iranians could commit themselves to carrying it out.
The current diplomatic effort at the UN is being carried on without Iran's Ambassador Said Rajaie Khorassani, who has been in Iran for the past month. Though Mr. Khorassani may have been trying to gather support for moves toward greater cooperation with the Security Council, diplomats speculate that he has stayed away to avoid pressure to comment during the emergent phase of the new resolution.
Iran's refusal to participate on a recent ABC-TV special report on the Gulf that included an interview with Iraq's deputy prime minister and the Kuwaiti ambassador in Washington adds to the sense here that the Iranian leadership feels itself to be in a very sensitive situation.
Another factor keeping the Council from compromise with Iran is some permanent members' unwillingness to adopt a position that might appear to contradict earlier stands they have taken in the Council.
Iran requests that the Council submit the issue of responsibilities in the conflict to an impartial body, such as the World Court. The Iranian assumption is that Iraq will be blamed because of its September 1980 invasion of Iranian territory.
Some, however - most significantly the Soviet Union - believe a good case could be made for Iraq's position that Iran was the aggressor.
According to this view, Iran sparked the problem by menacing statements that urged Islamic revolution in Iraq and by border incidents and car bombings in Baghdad.
Given this dispute, the Iranians say the impartial body must be ``legal'' - that is, composed of judges, rather than by diplomats who would be subject to political considerations.
The other main changes the Iranians would like to see in the resolution are a condemnation of Iraq's use of chemical weapons and a restatement of the principle of freedom of navigation in the Gulf.
These changes would satisfy the Iranian insistence that the Council is duty-bound to pronounce itself on Iraq's conduct of the war and protect Iran's strategic interest in defending its own shipping in the Gulf, which is under relentless Iraqi attack. Iran has regularly said that it would agree to a cease-fire in Gulf waters.
Diplomats say that one or both of these changes is likely to be included in the final text.
The US is urging Security Council members to signal the importance of the resolution by sending their foreign ministers to the coming Security Council session. President Reagan has announced that Secretary of State George Shultz will represent the US. Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze is also expected.
Vernon Walters, the US ambassador to the UN, has been visiting foreign capitals, including Moscow, Peking, and Tokyo, to discuss the resolution and encourage high-level participation.