House Banking Committee Chairman Henry S. Reuss (D-Wis.) said yesterday he would consider holding hearings on past U.S. actions in Iran as part of a deal to gain the release of the American hostages in Tehran.
"If [Iranian President Abol Hassan] Bani-Sadr would suggest that the Iranian government is willing to either free the hostages or put the hostages into neutral hands pending a congressional hearing and the president [Carter] didn't block it -- which he can as the commander in chief -- I would be more than willing to conduct hearings," Reuss said in an interview.
Reuss' statement was in response to a comment by the Iranian president on Thursday. In an interview with The Washington Post in Terhan, Bani-Sadr suggested that U.S. congressional hearings into alleged American interference in Iranian domestic affairs could hasten the hostages' release.
Bani-Sadr's comment also drew a guarded response from State Department spokesman Thomas B. Reston. "Once the hostages are released, there will be ample time for a thorough discussion of American policies, past and present, toward Iran. We are confident that such discussion will occur inside the Congress and outside of the Congress," Reston said.
Reston stressed, however, that the United States believes the "door is still open for the United Nations to help resolve the hostage crisis, and that is the avenue we continue to pursue." The U.S. commission recently left Terhan after failing to clear the way for the captives' release.
Fifty Americans have been held at the U.S. compound in Tehran since the Nov. 4 embassy takeover and three others are confined at the Iranian Foreign Ministry, according to the State Department.
Reuss suggested last November that his committee might hold hearings into the actions of deposed shaw Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in an attempt to gain the hostages' release.
Yesterday Reuss said he would only consider holding the hearings if Iran provided a written guarantee that the hostages would be freed. He also said he would not hold hearings without the agreement of the Carter administration and other Banking Committee members.