White House officials said yesterday that the United States is exploring certain unspecified ideas on a resolution of the crisis in Iran that emerged from Sunday night's meeting between President Carter and United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim.
Presidential press secretary Jody Powell would not disclose details of the ideas Carter and Waldheim discussed, but he said they are "not inconsistent" with the U.S. demand that the first step in any resolution of the crisis must be the release of the American hostages in Tehran.
At the same time, Powell denied that the president had rejected outright a Waldheim proposal for a "package deal" with Iranian authorities involving the release of the hostages and the establishment of a special U.N. commission to investigate the regime of the deposed shah of Iran.
"Basically, the discussion last night was a discussion out of which some ideas emerged, rather than any formal exchange of proposals or plans," he said.
But Powell also reiterated, as he had Sunday night, U.S. insistence that the release of the hostages must precede any inquiry into alleged crimes of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
Since the Nov. 4 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by Iranian militants, the administration has sought to focus public attention on the hostages, insisting it will not support an investigation of the shah until the hostages are released. After that, Powell and other officials have said, Iran will be free to air its grievances against the former ruler.
Privately, administration officials also have indicated that they are not opposed to working out an arrangement whereby Iran would be guaranteed, in exchange for the release of the hostages, an international inquiry into the shah's regime or some other forum to air its grievances.
But under any such arrangement, the officials have said, the hostages must be released first.
In a television interview Sunday Waldheim said that during his visit last week to Iran he discussed with Iranian authorities a possible "package deal" that would include the release of the shah and the establishment of a U.N. commission to investigate the shah.
Questioned about this Sunday night after Waldheim's two-hour meeting with the president at the White House, Powell reiterated the U.S. demand for release of the hostages, leaving the impression that the Waldheim proposal had been rejected by the administration.
The White House sought to soften that impression yesterday by asserting that "ideas emerged" from the Carter-Waldheim meeting.
Powell, however, said it would be "premature" to discuss these ideas in detail, and he cautioned reporters that "it's too early to say what ideas may turn out to be worthwhile."
Asked if the United States would be willing to allow a delay in consideration of U.N. economic sanctions against Iran while the new ideas are being explored, Powell replied, "No."
The president told Waldheim Sunday night that the United States expects the U.N. Security Council to follow up promptly on its resolution of Dec. 31, which called for the imposition of sanctions against Iran if the hostages were not freed by yesterday.
Yesterday, Waldheim reported to the Security Council on his trip to Tehran, and said that Iranian authorities scoffed at the prospect that economic sanctions would affect the hostages' situation.
U.S. officials have said they expect a resolution imposing sanctions to be introduced in the Security Council later this week.