The Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday directed the secretary of state to turn over to it "all information relevant" to "commitments or understandings" reached last December between White House aides and the deposed shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi on the eve of the former Iranian ruler's departure from the United States to Panama.
A letter signed by Committee Chairman Frank Church (D-Idaho) and the ranking Republican member, Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R-N.Y.), with the committee's request was hand-carried to Secretary Cyrus R. Vance yesterday afternoon.
The "understandings," according to administration sources, never took the form of an agreed single document. Rather, the White House and the shah each has notes of the conversations.
Among the areas covered, according to administration sources, were such potentially controversial areas as the circumstances under which the shah could return to the United States for emergency medical treatment and the U.S. role in maintaining his personal security.
There were indications yesterday that a controversy could develop with the White House about whether the committee will get the information it wants.
Church said he wants "any memo of conversation that had been prepared" from the meeting that took place in the shah's hospital suite at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
Present, along with the former Iranian ruler, were White House chief of staff Hamilton Jordan and White House council Lloyd Cutler.
Church said yesterday that the committee is entitled to notes of the meeting "even if informal understandings" were all that came out of the session.
Javis, ranking minority member of the foreign relations panel joined Church in signing the letter requesting the material.
"I learned about them in the newspaper," Church said yesterday referring to a story in The Washington Post.
At the White House, presidential press secretary Jody Powell confirmed to reporters that "assurances" were given the shah because "there were obstacles before" his departure from the United States.
He said the shah was concerned about conditions in Panama and "how he would be living."
A spokesman for Javits said yesterday that he "emphasized he wants to see all information on the subject and he emphasized all."
At the White House, Alfred Friendly, Jr., a spokesman for the president's national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, said the committee's request would get careful consideration, particularly "its relevance to the committee's role in legislative oversight."
When asked if there would be any problem in turning over the notes of the Lackland conversations, Friendly responded, "if there are any notes."
Administration sources said earlier this week that more than one set of notes has been maintained from the December session, although as one said Tuesday, "it has never been called a list of obligations."
He also added he had never seen "what the shah's side consider as their list."
Church appeared chagrined yesterday over the matter, and sources said he may bring the subject up today when Vance appears before the committee in a long-scheduled hearing designed to present a worldwide view of administration policy.
In a interview yesterday, Church said neither he or Javits had any knowledge of the understandings with the shah, although they both had been regularly briefed by administration officials on the Iran situation almost weekly since the U.S. hostages were seized in November.
The understandings also deal with less critical matters, such as American government aid to the shah in securing communications facilities and transportation, helping his children, who are in school in the United States, and assisting the empress in visiting them.
Administration sources said the understandings represent a moral commitment to the shah from the administration and remain intact even though he has left Panama for Egypt.