Iranian Foreign Minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh today denied reports that he met White House aide Hamilton Jordan during the past three days to discuss the U.S. hostages held in Tehran. Jordan has also denied the reports.
The reports, carried by Radio Luxembourg and then repeated by sources close to lawyers who have been representing Iran in the West, said Ghotbzadeh met Jordan, President Carter's chief of staff, on Saturday evening and on one other occasion during his four-day stay in Paris. s
Ghotbzadeh told reporters as he left for Tehran today: "I haven't met any American officials in France. I just heard [Jordan's] name yesterday night."
In Washington, White House press secretary Jody Powell said, "Because the report does have the potential for being damaging, I will say this: Mr. Jordan has occasionally traveled to meet with intermediaries on some aspects of this situation. Iranian officials themselves have refused to meet directly with any American official. This is why we have had to work with a wide variety of intermediaries."
Earlier, the U.S. Embassy in Paris said it could neither confirm nor deny the reports and the Iranian Embassy said it would not comment. After the reports were broadcast, reliable sources said the Saturday meeting took place in the Paris home of Argentine businessman Hector Villalon.
In London, meanwhile, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government, battling to rescue Britain's ailing economy, was reported ready to resume supplying Chieftain tank spare parts and ammunition to Iran if the estimated 50 hostages held in the U.S. Embassy are released.
This was seen in some quarters as a means of putting pressure on Iran's revolutionary government to release the hostages, who were seized Nov. 4.
It follows the visit by an Iranian military mission to persuade Britain, a strong supporter of President Carter's tough policy against Iran, to resume badly needed arms sales suspended when Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi went into exile a year ago.
Reports reaching London said that military equipment worth $159 million, much of it supplied by Britain before the revolution, is out of action because of a critical lack of spare parts. The 900 Chieftain battle tanks that form the backbone of Iran's armored forces are particulary badly hit, the reports said.