The Senate Foreign Relations Committee's two senior members proposed yesterday that the panel compile a "white paper" describing the role the United States played in Iran during the 25 years it was controlled by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
Chairman Frank Church (D-Idaho) and Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R.-N.Y.), the committee's ranking Republican, made the proposal as Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance appeared before the committee to give a broad overview of the Carter administration's foreign policy.
Vance, while warning that it would be "a grave mistake" for the committee to hold hearings on the underlying causes of Iranian crisis while Iran holds American hostages, said the administration would have no objections to a "historical document" such as that proposed by Church and Javits.
Church, who has agreed that the committee should do nothing to endanger the hostages, argued that a "factual rendition" of the American role might help to clarify questions about U.S. dealings with the deposed shah and satisfy Iranian demands for an acknoweldgement of alleged American interference in Iranian affairs.
The Iranian call for some form of U.S. apology has been a key issue in the attempt to find a way of freeing the hostages, who have been held by Iranian militants since Nov. 4. President Carter so far has said he will not make an apology.
In describing their plan, Church and Javits left unclear whether the proposed "white paper" would deal with matters such as the U.S.-engineered 1953 coup that made the shah Iran's undisputed master until he was toppled by internal unrest early last year.
Committee staff sources said later that Church and Javits had in mind a chronological history and analysis that would be drawn from public documents and would focus mainly on details of U.S. military assistance and other cooperation with Iran during the shah's reign.
Both senators noted that the committee would have to vote approval before the "white paper" could be compiled. Javits also stressed that some members might object, particularly if the aim is to make the report public before the hostages are released.
On a related question, Vance agreed to turn over to the committee the administration's notes on the meeting at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas last December, when White House officials gave the deposed shah, then leaving the United States for Panama, various assurances of help, including a promise that he could return if he required emergency medical treatment not available elsewhere.
Since the shah's flight last Sunday from Panama to Egypt, some of his American friends allegedly have charged the administration with breaking its promises.Administration officials have countered by saying the United States has lived up to all the commitments given the shah.
Vance also denied a report, broadcast Wednesday by CBS News, that he plans to resign in the wake of Carter's defeat by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) in Tuesday's New York and Connecticut presidential primaries.
The report linked the alleged resignation with the anger of Jewish voters over the U.S. vote for a U.N. resolution criticizing Israel and Vance's defense of some parts of the resolution after Carter disavowed the vote as a mistake.
Vance's testimony, a 60-page written statement followed by 2 1/2 hours of questioning, ranged across the entire spectrum of administration foreign policy, but broke no new ground. Essentially, Vance reiterated what he and other administration officials said several times in recent weeks.
His main emphasis was on U.S. strategy in the Persian Gulf region in the wake of the crises in Iran and Afghanistan. In this connection, Vance reasserted the need to make the Soviet Union "pay a price for aggression," while insisting that the United States is not returning to a Cold War posture. He also called again on America's principal allies to share the burden of countering the Soviets.
One of the few disagreements in the long session came over Church's assertion that, in view of the problems besetting the U.S. economy, the administration's foreign aid proposals will be to be subjected to some heavy trims.
Vance protested that the aid request, undergoing revision because of the administration's budget cuts, will be "a very tight, stringent" request and that to cut it further "would jeopardize the national interest."
The secretary also said that for the first time in three years the administration will not lower the ceiling on arms sales and grants of conventional weapons around the world. The ceiling was imposed in 1978 as part of Carter's campaign to reduce international arms traffic, but Vance said it was being shelved temporarily "in the absence of agreed international restraints."
In response to a question by Sen. Richard Stone (D-Fla.), Vance confirmed reports that Cuba is sending arms to El Salvador's leftist insurgents through Honduras. But, except for saying that the United States will try to "dry that up," he refused to elaborate publicly.