Iranian Foreign Minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh today predicted "a great deal of trouble in Egypt" if the deposed shah goes there and warned that the hostages "will definitely not be released" even if the shah leaves the United States.
In his first formal news conference as foreign minister, Ghotbzadeh confirmed that Iran will boycott Saturday's U.N. Security Council session on the Iranian crisis and said Iran would not consider any possible condemnation there as binding.
Throughout the nearly hour-long news conference at the headquarters of Iran's radio and television system -- which he also runs -- Ghotbzadeh reflected the growing frustration at the decision-making process of the ruling Revolutionary Council.
Informed sources said the council spent four hours last night debating what to do if Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi leaves the United States, but failed to reach agreement.
In essence, the council is faced with two unpalatable choices. Either it can expel the hostages, which would be seen as defeat locally. Or, as seems more likely, it can hang on to them for the foreseeable future and put them on trial.
Symptomatic of the emerging hard line here were two statements before the press conference from the radical students at the embassy who have been calling the shots and influencing Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini increasingly in recent days.
"We will cause unrest in the whole" Middle East "if the shah goes to Egypt," one student statement said. Another read, "We will try the hostages for spying the following days, that means as soon as [the shah] is accepted in a country outside America."
In the past, their seemingly ultraradical statements have become official policy within a matter of days, and sometimes within hours.
Diplomats and analysts here credited Iran with the power to create serious problems for President Anwar Sadat if the shah seeks refuge in Egypt.
AGAINST THE BACKGROUND OF VIOLENCE IN THE islamic world from Islamabad in Pakistan to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Iran's revolutionaries are in a strong position to pressure the conservative Moslem governments into heating up an anti-Egyptian campaign all but forgotten in the wake of Sadat's peace agreement with Israel.
Asked what Iran would do if the shah accepted Sadat's invitation, Ghotbzadeh said, "We [would] continue to demand his return from Egypt, and I'm sure there's going to be a great deal of trouble in Egypt to return him here."
Meanwhile, despite a turnout of at least several hundred thousands of Iranians to mark Ashura, the holiest day in the Shiite Islam mourning month of Moharram, Khomeini was dealt a setback in his dwindling hopes of massive backing for his hand-tailored constitution.
Leaders of all Kurdish groups announced there was "no possibility" that the most militant national minority would take part in the Sunday-Monday constitutional referendum "until a definite solution to the Kurdish demands for autonomy were met."
Apparently talks are now under way between the Kurds and the government.
Also boycotting the referendum -- in addition to a right-to-left spectrum of political parties -- are the Turkomans in the northeast and the Baluchis in southeast Iran.
So, too, is Ayatollah Kazem Shariatmadari, the leader in Azerbaijan in northwest Iran where almost a third of the country's total population lives.
At one point in the Friday prayers in Tehran, Iranians were on their knees in a solid line stretching some two miles from Tehran University to the U.S. Embassy.
The turnout for Ashura, which commemorates the death in battle of Prophet Mohammed's grandson, Hussein, in the 7th century, was even bigger than yesterday's demonstrations.
With a clash of cymbals men flailed their backs with chains to commemorate Hussein's sacrifice.
Despite the mourning ceremony -- which this year also took on anti-American overtones -- the mood was relaxed. Whole families, including babes in arms and women pushing perambulators, shouted and sang.
Some of the nearby demonstrators shouted anti-American slogans -- such as "Death to Carter, Death to the shah" -- under various flags -- black for mourning, red for martyr Hussein's sacrifice and green for Islam.
In other points of his news conference, Ghotbzadeh reiterated his earlier assurance that embassy hostages "are being treated well." He said that "we reject the U.S. government, especially Mr. Carter, who accuses (us) of treating these hostages badly."
The minister said he did "not think there would be a war with the United States." But "if the United States decides to attack us we will defend ourselves to the bitter end." He added, "We will not commit suicide."
Ghobtzadeh evaded questions about threats to speed up the spy trials of the hostages and said no date for them has been set.
He said, however, that charge d'affaires Bruce Laingen, political officer Victor Tomseth and Col. Leland Holland, the embassy security officer, were not being held at the Foreign Ministry as hostages and would not be put on trial.
They were technically free to leave Iran, he said, "and if they want to leave I will try to facilitate things."
"But providing security from the Foreign Ministry to the airport at this time was rather difficult with the tension in the country," Ghotbzadeh said, alluding to the anti-American mood.
Explaining why the highest ranking American diplomat and his two senior colleagues were technically free while subordinates at the embassy were facing spy trials, Ghotbzadeh said the trio had been granted "political asylum" by then foreign minister Ibrahim Yazdi when the embassy was seized by Islamic radical students on Nov. 4.
He also charged that among the embassy hostages were "a certain number of people much higher than the charge d'affaires in their activities and relations with the Central Intelligence Agency." He refused to expand on his remarks.
In his only conciliatory comment on the United States, Ghotbzadeh cited Carter's "decisions and declarations . . . to exclude at least temporarily a military intervention" and said, "We welcome and accept them as wise decisions."
However, reflecting Iran's evangelical zeal in trying to discredit the United States abroad, Ghotzadeh said, "It is for the United States to step down and accept what they have done has been wrong. An insult to our revolution. We won't back down."
"I don't think the question of compromise arises," he said, explaining Iran's desire not just to try the shah, but to prove to Iranians and the whole world the U.S. role in propping up the monarchy.
"The U.S. embassy in Iran for 25 years ruled over this country," he said. "It was not an embassy. It was a center of power and a center of crime."
Even were the United States government to accept his proposals for an Iranian-chosen team of international experts to delve into the shah's alleged misdeeds, Iran would demand more than just seeing the "actual work" of the team and an American commitment to abide by its results.
"Unfortunately our past experience shows that we cannot trust American declarations," he said.
Even then, he would only say that "we will be in a position to discuss the future development" -- in other words no firm commitment exists to release the hostages on that basis alone.