The United States yesterday issued a stiff new protest about the statements from the Soviet Union regarding Iran, charging that the statements could endanger Americans and damage relations between the superpowers.
The protest, made public by State Department spokesman Hodding Carter, was delivered in Moscow to Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko by U.S. Ambassador Malcolm Toon.
Carter, in an unusually strong statement about such a diplomatic exchange, said Toon had expressed U.S. "dismay and surprise" about "false accounts" in Soviet official media of U.S. actions in Iran.
Carter said the Soviet accounts, which suggested that the United States was seeking to interfere militarily in Iran, could increase the danger to Americans there. He said Toon asked Gromyko "to consider the damaging effects of such propaganda on stability in Iran and on U.S.-Soviet relations."
In a conciliatory gesture toward the Khomeini forces in Iran, the State Department announced that the United States has granted full diplomatic recognition to the new government, formally headed by Prime Minister Medhi Bazargan.
Spokesman Carter said Ambassador William H. Sullivan had relayed to authoriteis in Tehran "our intention to maintain diplomatic relations" with Iran. "This is the formal declaration that our relations do continue," Carter said.
The State Department spokesman said Sullivan had asked for a meeting with Bazargan to discuss "policies, program and future outlook" in Iran.
The protest to Moscow was the third in three days regarding Soviet involvement in the revolutionary situation in Iran or the killing of U.S. Ambassador Adolph Dubs in a shootout in neighboring Afghanistan.
U.S. officials said they have no evidence that the Soviets are basically responsible for either situation. However, the Russian role, even if peripheral, has drawn anger from top U.S. officials at a time of frustration and helplessness.
Following their return from a state visit to Mexico City late yesterday, President Carter, Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance and presidential assistant Zbigniew Brzezinski conferred at the White House with Vice President Mondale and U.S. crisis managers from several government departments who have been following the events in Iran and Afghanistan.
There was no indication that the U.S. displeasure with the Soviets would affect completion of the strategic arms limitation treaty (SALT), now in its final stage of negotiation between the superpowers. A further meeting of Vance and Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin about unresolved details of SALT II is scheduled for Monday.
However, a State Department official, who declined to be quoted by name, said the new turbulence in Soviet-American relations "cannot help but affect the climate" for the nuclear arms treaty in U.S. political debate.
The United States has received reports, according to informed officials, that Soviet agents have been purchasing Iranian currency in Geneva recently. and that some Soviet weapons may have been supplied to insurgent elements in Iran. The reports, which are described as unconfirmed, have not been taken as signs of a major Soviet role in the unrest.
U.S. officials said they have no doubt that the Soviets would like to extend their influence beyond the Tudeh Party, described as their principal point of leverage in the past, to some of the other radical groups bidding for control in Iran's revolutionary situation.
At the same time, however, Moscow was quick to recongnize the Bazargan government. Radio Moscow yesterday broadcast a report that the Tudeh Party is backing Ayatollah Khomeini's appeal for striking Iranian workers to return to work, but added that the party insists the Iranian revolutionary struggle must continue.
It is almost entirely the Soviet news accounts and broadcasts that have infuriated American officials, according to State Department sources. The United States was particularly upset by reports by Tass, the Soviet news agency, and Radio Moscow on Wednesday saying that the attack on the American embassy in Tehran that day was a "provocation" intended to justify American military intervention, and suggesting that the United States was somehow behind it.
A U.S. diplomat in Moscow delivered an oral protest about the Tass dispatch to the Soviet Foreign Ministry Thursday.The Soviet media reports were also raised in Washington late Wednesday when Dobrynin was called in by Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
The primary purpose of that conversation was to protest the failure of Soviet advisers in Afghanistan to use their influence in preventing the shootout that took the life of the U.S. ambassador in Kabul.
Last night Dobrynin expressed profound regret over the death of Dubs and said Soviet advisers were not responsible for the Afghantistan goverment's handling of the incident, the State Department said.
But in so doing, according to Associated Press, Dobrynin challenged the U.S. version of the events leading up to Dubs' murder.
State Department spokeswoman Anita Stockman said Dobrynin met with Christopher to discuss the actions of the Soviet advisers. According to Stockman, Dobrynin said the Soviet government deplores "this act of terrorism" and he "specifically denied that any Soviet officials were responsible for the decisions about the handling of the terrorists who were holding Dubs captive."
President Carter was reported by U.S. officials to be furious about the behavior of several Soviet advisers. Stockman said that last night Christopher told Dobrynin that American understanding of the events was "based on eyewitness accounts from several U.S. embassy officers."