Iranian Foreign Minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh today sharply criticized Soviet activities in the country and ordered a major reduction in Soviet diplomatic personnel based here.
Ghotbzadeh who has called for a total withdrawal of Soviet troops from neighboring Afghanistan, also attacked the Iranian Tudeh (Communist) Party, saying its members were "agents" of the Soviet Union.
Western diplomats said the attack, which came just two days after the expulsion of a Soviet diplomat for alleged spying, was the strongest criticism of the Soviet Union by the government since the Islamic revolution ousted the shah in February 1979.
Speaking at a press conference limited to Iranian journalists, Ghotbzadeh said that the Soviets would be allowed to have only as many diplomats in Tehran as Iran has in Moscow.
The demand would cause an exodus of Soviets, since there are only nine Iranian diplomats in Moscow, according in the Foreign Ministry. There were 49 Soviet diplomats formally listed here as of September 1978, the latest period for which official figures are available. It is thought that the number has most likely increased since the revolution and Iran's turn against the United States.
Iran, traditionally has been suspicious of the Soviets because of their past efforts to dominate the country, including an attempt to take over the northern province of Azerbaijan after World War II. Iran's revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini has been careful to keep the Soviets at arm's distance since he came to power 18 months ago, but Western diplomats note that his government had not previously issued much sharp criticism of the Soviet Union.
In addition, Ghotbzadeh said the number of Soviets working in nondiplomatic capacities in Iran, in such sectors as transportation or trade and fisheries, should be limited to two per office. Ghotbzadeh said these personnel will not be allowed to use diplomatic passports, according to the official government news agency.
There was no way of knowing immediately the number of Soviets that would have to leave Iran, but it could be as high as 100.
"We have encountered numerous cases of wrongdoing by Russian officials who have created a lot of problems for us," Ghotbzadeh said.
The level of understanding between the two countries on diplomatic matters is not always clear, he added.
He complained that during the visit last month of an Iranian trade mission to Moscow their telephone and telex lines were out. "We lost all contact with them," he said.
On the question of growing communist influence in the country, Ghotbzadeh said that the Tudeh Party was taking advantage of the country's preoccupation with the holding of 53 American diplomatic hostages. The Tudeh Party was capitalizing on Iran's difficulties with the United States to conduct activities benefiting the Soviets, he said.
Just because Iran is at odds with the United States is no reason to give concessions to the Soviets, Ghotbzadeh said, reiterating that the Islamic revolution would favor neither the East nor the West.
The foreign minister, who has been criticized by the Soviet press for his opposition to Soviet troops in Afghanistan, said that Soviets were giving strong support to Tudeh.
Tudeh leader Nureddin Klanouri, two other members and a group of student supporters have just traveled to Moscow where they saw President Leonid Brezhnev, Premier Alexei Kosygin and Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, Ghotbzadeh said.
The Tudeh members "have returned to put into action the order" of the Soviet leaders, Ghotbzadeh said.
Many Iranians who were formerly pro-American were now supporting Tudeh, he said, purely because they wanted to oppose the Islamic revolution.
Another demand by the foreign minister is likely to reduce the number of Soviets and force the closure of one of the two Soviet consulates, in either Isfahan in central Iran or in the northern city of Rasht.
Ghotbzadeh said Iran had no use for its consulate in Leningrad and would like to transfer it to Dushanbe in the Soviet Asian republic of Tadahikistan.
It is unlikely that the Soviets would agree to the change since the consulate would be centered in the area where most of the country's 50 million Moslems live, and the Kremlin already is uneasy about Ayatollah Khomeini's ideas about an Islamic state infiltrating across the border. In addition, the consulate would be located near the Soviet Afghan border.
In another move indicating suspicion of Soviet activities in the country, Ghotbzadeh said that all Iranians working for Soviet organizations would have to obtain the approval of the Foreign Ministry before starting their jobs.