The United States regrets "any misunderstandings" it has had with Iran and looks forward to resuming normal relationships with that country, President Carter said in an interview made public yesterday.
Responding to the same question that was put to him Wednesday during a news conference, the president once again declined to express any regret for past U.S. involvement with the deposed shah of Iran.
But in the interview, conducted Friday with members of the American Society of Magazine Editors, Carter went further than he had in the past in speaking in conciliatory terms toward Iran.
U.S. willingness to pledge that it will not interfere in Iran's internal affairs is one of the key elements in the negotiations to free the American hostages in Tehran.
Iranian President Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr, in an interview Friday, repeated the main Iranian demands to be met before the hostages are released. They are that "the U.S. must condemn its past and promise us that in the future it won't interfere in our internal affairs and that it will not prevent us [from] prosecuting the shah for his crimes and treacheries."
In his interview, the president declined to discuss the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, saying these matters "are under discussion literally on a day-and-night basis right now." But he went far to satisfy Bani-Sadr's demand that the U.S. pledge noninterference in Iran's internal affairs.
"I will not do anything to violate the principles of our country" Carter said. "I will not do anything to violate our obligations to Iran.
"We obviously regret any misunderstandings that have existed in the past or will exist in the future between ourselves and Iran or any other country," he continued."I don't think it is good at this sensitive moment to resurrect an analysis of the last 35 years of Iran's history.
"We have a desire to see a united Iran with a government of their own choice, which they have now established, with a secure Iran, and Iran at peace, and we look forward to a time in the future to have normal relationships with Iran. But to single out any particular aspect of the past history either a few decades or a few days, I think right now would not be appropriate for me."
Administration officials said Carter's comments were not intended as a signal to Iran, nor were they part of the process to form a U.N. commission to investigate the shah's regime as a prelude to the release of the hostages. [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]
But the president's tone was a striking contrast to most of the rhetoric that has marked the Iranian crisis. Only a few weeks ago White House press secretary Jody Powell was publicly warning at every opportunity that Iran would pay "an increasingly higher price" for each day the hostages remained in captivity.
Carter told the magazine editors that he was more optimistic about the chances of freeing the hostages, but he remained cautious when speaking of the future.
"We have been encouraged by recent events, but I cannot predict what will happen in the near future," he said.
The president said he is "satisfied with the overall support" the United States has received from its allies in the Iran and Afghanistan crises, even though some allies have complained they were not given enough advance notice of such American moves as the proposed Olympic boycott.
He also predicted that the administration will have trouble getting Congress to approve registration of women for the military draft.
"I think that the Congress, when it assesses the arguments pro and con, might very well approve the registration of women," Carter said. "I see no reason not to register women."