Iranian President Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr today dismissed a request by 10 Western envoys that Iran free the U.S. Embassy hostages, but he raised the prospect of allowing the Red Cross to visit all of them.
In a meeting with the chiefs of mission of the nine European Community countries and the Japanese ambassador, Bani-Sadr declined to answer the Common Market's call Thursday for therelease of the hostages, who are in their sixth month of captivity.
An aide to Bani-Sadr, speaking on Iranian television late Saturday night, said the ambassadors at the meeting warned the Iranian president that their countries "will follow American policy on Iran" unless the hostages are released within a certain time period, the Associated Press reported.
[The aide, Moussavi Garmaroudi, did not say whether the ambassadors had specified a time limit or indicated whether the American policy referred to was President Carter's call for U.S. allies to break diplomatic relations with Iran and impose sanctions against it.]
Bani-Sadr repeated the decree of Iran's revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, that the hostages' fate is up to the country's future parliament, which is not expected to convene until May at the earliest. Officials investigating alleged fraud in the first round of parliamentary voting last month announced that a runoff, originally scheduled for April 3, will be held May 2.
There also was no immediate response to a letter sent to Khomeini by Pope John Paul II yesterday. The letter expressed deep concern about "deteriorating relations" between the United States and Iran and urged Khomeini to help find a "just solution"that "protects the mutual respect of the countries concerned. . . ."
As part of continuing efforts to disuade Washington's Western allies from joining economic and political sanctions against Iran, Foreign Minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh today called in the ambassadors of Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Greece, Finland, Austria and Switzerland.
An envoy who attended the meeting said Ghotbzadeh "promised to do his best to arrange some sort of meeting" with the hostages by international observers.
"There was nothing concrete," the envoy said. "And we have had no shortage or promises."
In his meeting today with Western envoys, Bani-Sadr tried to allay their concern about the welfare of the hostages, the state-run radio reported.
"From the health and humanitarian point of view, we ouselves have been thinking about this issue and there is no need for you to worry," he said.
"We have been trying to solve the crisis between Iran and the U.S., and it was the U.S. which did not meet its undertaking and has violated our terms and conditions," the president said.
The radio quoted him as adding, "An arrangement has been made so that an international organization like the Red Cross can visit all the hostages without exception."
According to Western envoys, however, Bani-Sadr did not make clear to them who could visit the hostages, and the Red Cross was mentioned only as a possibility.
In the past, the militant Moslem students who seized the U.S. Embassy Nov. 4 have blocked visits that they did not initiate themselves.
Another ambassador said Bani-Sadr told the group that their countries should follow their own interests and refuse to join the U.S. sanctions.
Meanwhile, Iranian news media reported that more clashes along Iran's western border between Iraqi and Iranian troops. The newspaper Kayhan said heavy fighting resumed yesterday after a lull and was still going on this morning. The paper's reporter, whose car reportedly was hit during the shooting, said that the two sides traded artillery fire at Baveissi and that there was fighting near at least three other towns.
An indication of the seriousness with which Iran viewed the border skirmishing was the dispatch today of two military commanders from Iran to the embattled border town of Qasre-Shirin. Ground forces commander Gen. Valiollah Fallahi and Revolutionary Guard commander Abu Sharif toured Iranian positions and visited refugee camps sheltering Iranian and Iraqi Shiite Moslems expelled by the Baghdad government in the past week.
Fallahi said that the Iraqi Army ha strengthened its forces on its side of the border with tanks and heavy weapons, but he claimed that Iraqui soldiers were somewhat less than vigilant.
"As far as I noticed, all the Iraqi forces stationed along the border were resting in tents," he said. "In one of the Iraqi stations they closed the gate last night and installed a scarecrow on the roof and everybody slept inside."
In the effort to stop the clashes and curb the belligerent rehetoric between Iran and Iraq, Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi today cabled both Bani-Sadr and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Iranian radio reported. It said the cable argued tht the conflict only benefited "exploiters and Zionists" and that both countries should concentrate their efforts against the United States and Israel.
At the same time, however, Iranian authorities reported that 10 "spies" from the ruling Iraqi Baath Party had been arrested among the refugees forcibly deported by Iraq.
Citing a visit to Baghdad by Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry officials, an Iranian newspaper reported that "Kuwait, too, is secretly concocting conspiracies against Iran."
The accusations against Iraq were broadened to include the two countries' position on oil production and prices. Oil Minister Ali Akbar Moinfar charged that Iraq has "increased oil exports and contained the price" while Iran was saving its oil wealth for future generations and "not giving it away free to the international oil carnivores."
He asked, "While Iran sells oil at $35 a barrel, why do these puppets sell it at $28 and empty the pocket of the dignified Iraqi nation to serve imperialism?"