Because of a typographical error in yesterday's edition, U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim was incorrectly identified as an Australian diplomat. Waldheim is Austrian.
U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim yesterday warned the United States against the use of force to solve the hostage crisis in Iran and predicted that the American captives will be freed soon after the new Iranian parliament is elected and begins work next month.
"More and more the government and the people in Iran want this problem solved so they can get on with other problems," Waldheim told reporters after speaking at the National Town Meeting, a weekly public interest forum at the Kennedy Center.
Waldheim, whose mediation effort to gain release of the Americans collapsed last week after his inquiry commission was denied a planned visit to the hostages, said U.S. and Iranian officials have agreed that the panel should return "when the political situation clears."
Although top Iranian officials had endorsed Waldheim's plan to gain freedom for the hostages in return for the panel's investigation of Iranian grievances, the arrangement collapsed when revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini expressed support for the militant captors' stand against a visit.
Since the defeat of Waldheim's initiative, U.S. and U.N. officials have underlined the importance of Iran's parliamentary elections because Khomeini has decreed that the new national legislature should determine the fate of the estimated 50 Americans now in their 139th day of captivity.
Waldheim, noting the "uneasiness" caused by the first-round election success of hard-line Iranians who oppose an early release of the hostages, said he believes the Americans will be freed regardless of the final composition of the parliament.
"My impression is that the parliament, together with the president and his government, will probably make the decision to release the hostages as soon as possible," the U.N. chief said. "Whatever the outcome of the election, the issue will be settled.
In the next several weeks before the parliament convenes, he said, the United States government should remain patient and eschew proposals, such as one made this week by Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), to prepare a military response to the crisis.
"I'm deeply convinced," he said, "that only a negotiated settlement can solve this. If you think you can solve the problem with force, you're wrong. Not only do you endanger the lives of the hostages, but you threaten an explosion in the whole area."
Although the five-member U.N. commission never saw the hostages held at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, he said, "third-party" visitors and Iraanian officials have assured the commissioners that the Americans "are all alive and safe and sound."
Waldheim said he has remained incontact with the highest government authorities in Iran and is convinced of their sincere hope to end the crisis. They have asked for the commission's return, which could come after the second stage of elections in April, he said.
At the Town Meeting the tall Australian diplomat gave a brief speech and then answered questions from a crowd numbering in the hundreds. He spent the rest of his day consulting with U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance and members of the Senate.
Asked to explain the commission's faialure, he said Iran's conflicting power centers and the unexpected hard-line stance of Khomeini scuttled a carefully constructed plan to transfer the hostages from the embassy to a building controlled by the government.
On another subject, he was asked what he has done to help a Polish employe of the United Nations who was arrested in Warsaw last August on her way to a new U.N. post in Mongolia. She was accused of spying for an intelligence service of a member of the North American Treaty Organization, and according to the official Polish press agency, she has admitted the charges.
Waldheim said he discussed the case of Alaicja Wesolowska with the Polish foreign minister during his visit in New York last year. He has appealed for clemency in her case, he said, although he was told his request could not be considered until all her appeals have been completed.