The militant Moslem students occupying the U.S. Embassy here said today that the had transferred another group of their captives to a distant Iranian city as part of their plan to thwart any future U.S. hostage rescue attempt.
In their last statement, the militants said that "more hostages" -- the number was not specified -- had been sent to the northeastern city of Mashad. The statement called on the city's "responsible clergy, thinkers of society and struggling youths" to cooperate to keep the hostages safely detained and to resist any efforts to rescue them.
Mashad was the eighth provincial city to which the militants have said they transferred hostages following the announcement of their plan to scatter their captives shortly after they received word last Friday of the aborted U.S. hostage rescue mission.
The bodies of eight American servicemen who participated in the ill-fated mission continued to be the subject of wrangling within the Iranian leadership as it discussed whether and under what conditions the remains would be repatriated.
Greek Catholic Archbishop Hilarion Capucci, invited to Tehran by the government of President Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr to handle the matter, said today he expected the remains to be flown to Zurich Sunday for delivery to the International Red Cross and subsequent return to their families in the United States. But other officials involved in the effort to return the bodies said it was unlikely that they would leave Tehran before Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Bani-Sadr and Foreign Minister Sadegh Ghotzbadeh issued more indignant statements on the capture of the Iranian Embassy in London by Iranian Arabs demanding the release of colleagues imprisioned in the main oil-producing province of Khuzestan in southwestern Iran.
Ghotbzadeh, returning from a tour of Arab countries, said the responsibility for dealing with the seizure in which Iranian diplomats were taken hostage, lay with the British government.He claimed that the captors had asked to speak to Iranian leaders through the Iraqi ambassador in London, but that Iran refused because it considers Iraq's leadership and its envoy to London to be "terrorists" along with the captors.
Iran blamed the takeover of its embassy on Iraqi agents and has refused to acknowledge the captors' claims to be Iranian Arabs from Khuzestan.
Ghotbzadeh's tough comments seconded yesterday's statement by Bani-Sadr that Iran would sooner allow its diplomats in the London embassy to be killed then meet the captor's demand that 91 prisoners be freed.
"We will accept the martyrdom of our children, but we will not accept blackmail," Bani-Sadr was quoted today as having told a rally in the central Iranian city of Isfahan.
Underlining Iran's hard-line stance on troubles in Khuzestan were the executions in the provincial capital of Ahwaz today of two persons accused of inciting violence at Ahunz University last month in fighting between Moslem fundamentalists and leftists.
None of the Iranian statements on the London embassy seizure so far have drawn any connection with the nearly six-month-old hostage drama at home, for which the Iranian government has disclaimed any responsibility.
The Iranian government also has made no effort to clear up the mystery over the announced transfers of hostages to cities and towns across the country. The militants who seized the U.S. Embassy here Nov. 4 have said little about the hostges' new places and conditions of detention.
The only clarification so far has come in a statement issued by militants in the northwestern city of Tabriz, saying that hostages transferred there were being kept in the city's abandoned U.S. consulate.
A phone call to the consulate was answered by an Iranian who said he was a student in Tabriz helping to guard the hostages there. He refused to give any details of how many Americans are being held in the consulate or under what conditions they are living. He denied that he was one of the militants who reportedly accompanied the hostages from Tehran to Tabriz.
There was no reply to phone calls to the former U.S. consulates in the southern cities of Isfahan and Shiraz, two other cities to which the militants say they have transferred hostages. The other four cities and towns mentioned in the militants' communiues are the Shite Moslem holy city of Qom, south of Tehran, Najafabad near Isfahan, the central city of Yazd, and the town of Jahrom near Shiraz.
At the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, the number of Revolutionary Guards posted outside the compound has dwindled this week after security was reinforced immediately following the failed rescue attempt. Diplomats have taken this and an unusual number of vehicles moving in and out of the compound as signs that the transfers of hostages may have taken place as announced by the militants. But none of the hostages have yet been seen actually leaving the compound or arriving in provincial cities.