The State Department acknowledged yesterday that Iran is not expected to carry out U.S.-ordered cutbacks in Iranian diplomatic personnel in this country until tomorrow -- two weeks after the initial American deadline.
In addition, the State Department indicated the reduction in Iranian diplomats and consular officials may be less severe than originally suggested.
On Dec. 12, the State Department announced it had ordered all but 35 of the 218 Iranian diplomats to leave the United States within five days. The move was described as "a measured step to demonstrate to the government of Iran our continuing concern over the illegal holding of hostages and American property in Iran.
In a statement designed "to clarify the situation," the State Department said yesterday that 152 Iranian diplomatic employes have been removed from official rolls of the Iranian Embassy and Iran's four U.S. consulates.
"Many of these were old-regime personnel who have either departed or been given permission to remain," the statement read. A State Department spokesman added that some of the 152 diplomats may have left Iran's embassy and consulates before the cutbacks were ordered.
The State Department said the Iranian Embassy is still "revising" its list in an effort to trim the remaining 66 diplomats to 35. "We expect that list (of 35 diplomats) Monday," the department's statement said.
Officials have made clear that at least some of the 183 diplomats previously assigned to Iran's embassy and consulates will be allowed to stay in the United States. They may be granted political asylum or legal residence because of marriage to U.S. citizens or other nondiplomatic employment in the United States.
The State Department also disclosed that 17 Iranian military liaison officers in the United States, will be required either to depart or obtain permission from the Immigration and Naturalization Service to remain.
An INS spokesman could not be reached last night for comment. The State Department aid INS will get in touch with the 183 diplomats removed from Iranian embassy rolls and the 17 Iranian military officers to make certain they leave the United States or obtain permission to remain.
Confusion has surrounded the State Department's order cutting back Iranian diplomatic personnel for several reasons. The State Department noted that its initial list of 218 Iranian diplomatic employes may not have been "up-to-date as the Iranian Embassy had not been reporting regularly on the departure of its personnel."
In addition, the spokesman added, the Dec. 12 order was widely misinterpreted as requiring 183 diplomats to leave the United States. It only later became clear that these diplomats would have the option of either departing from the United States or remaining here under nondiplomatic status.