The Palestine Liberation Organization today signaled that to solution of the U.S. Embassy seizure in Tehran may be in the offing, but the idea was quickly scotched by Moslem militants and some government officials in Tehran.
After meetings between PLO leader Yasser Afafat and an Iranian delegation in Tunis, PLO spokesman Mahmoud Labadi said the guerila organization had received assurances that the American hostages at the U.S. oEmbassy in Tehran would be released if the shah of Iran, in New York for medical treatment, left the United States for another country.
It was not immediately clear if the alleged assurances to the PLO had the blessing of Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who presumbably could overrule the militants and enforce such a solution
A U.S. official in Washington cautioned that the reported assurances would have to be from the "highest level" in Iran -- from Khomeini -- to carry a ring of truth in the current situation.
[In New York, latest reports on the shah's condition said the ailing former ruler should be able to leave the United States once doctors remova a gallstone blocking his bile duct, but that the operation will probably not be performed before Wednesday.]
Moslem militants holding the remaining 4. American embassy personnel in Tehran dismissed the PLO statement and repeated their insistence that the shah be extradited to Iran before any hostages are released.
Labadi's statement, and tacit confirmation of it by an Ranian Embassy official in Washington, indicated another rift between the militant embassy captors and some members of the new provisional Iranian government installed shortly after the Nov. 4 seizure.
Speaking to reporters covering the Arab summit conference in the Tunisian capital, Labadi said, "I can assure you not one of the hostages will be harmed. They will all be released if the shah were to leave the United States for another country, for example Mexico or Egypt, which have both offered to have him back."
Arafat, attending the summit, reportedly has been in close contact with Khomeini on the hostage issue.
An Iranian delegation arrived in Tunis Tuesday led by Ghazi Modaressi, a special emissary whom Khomeini tried to send as an official observer to the summit.
The independent Beirut daily An Nahar said today in a special report from Tunis that the Iranian delegation, which initially was refused observer status at the Arab summit, managed to get into the Hilton Hotel conference site through a side door.
Labadi, according to news reports from Tunis, spoke in French to reporters who gathered around him in the crowded lobby of the Hilton Hotel and later repeated the same comments in English. Asked whether he could be quoted as PLO spokesman, he said, "I would be very happy if you publish this entire conversation." He said sending the shah to another country was "one of the solutions, not the only solution, to the problem of the hostages."
Commenting on Labadihs remarks, the cultural attache of the Iranian Embassy in Washington Mansour Farhang, told NBC television, "PLO leaders speak with some knowledge and understanding of the Iranian situation because they do have close contact with the Iranian authorities, so what they say cannot be completely without substance.
"It is also my personal judgment that the shah's departure from this country will lead to a rapid, peaceful resolution of this conflict," he added.
"In situations of this nature it is usually necessary to produce some symbolic satisfaction for the antagonist involved in the situation. But I'm certain the Iranians have no intentions of harming the hostages and that once the shah leaves it will greatly contain the situation and a peaceful resolution will be in sight," Farhang was quoted as saying. He later declined to say whether this view was based on information from Tehran.
Although Farhang's comments seemed like an indirect confirmation of Labadi's statement, students holding the hostages in the embassy in Tehran said it was "nonsense."
In Tunis, meanwhile, yarab League leaders today ended their three-day summit after pledging $2 billion in aid for Lebanon over the next five years and renewing declarations of support of the Palestinian cause and opposition to Egypt's peace treaty with Israel.