Iraq claimed yesterday that its forces had surrounded the Iranian oil city of Abadan with an "air-tight" siege and Iran, in radio broadcasts, acknowledged that it was having difficulty sending in supplies and reinforcements.
Radio Baghdad, in a Persian-language broadcast, called on residents of Abadan to "either leave your homes and go to safe places or move away from the area of fighting," and it urged them to "disarm" the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who are holding out as the city's defenders, "and hand them over to the Iraqi forces."
As Iraqi troops pressed tighter on the important oil centers in the Shattal-Arab border region, Iran's religious rule, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, met with Islamic Conference peace envoy Habib Chatti and reportedly agreed tentatively to Chatti's proposal that a committee of Moslem heads of state try to seek a settlement in the war, now in its fifth week.
It was believed to be the first time since the war began that Khomeini met with a foreign visitor. Chatti said, however, that Khomeini had repeated that Iran is unwilling to accept a truce until Iraqi forces are withdrawn.
Meanwhile, in a telephone interview with The Associated Press, the speaker of Iran's parliament, Hojatoleslam Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, said that body will announce its decision on the fate of the 52 American hostages "in the next few days." He said he thought it only "a very remote possibility" that they would be put on trial as spies.
Battle reports from both sides indicated that Iranian defenders were holding out in Abadan, while Iraq fired artillery and mortar barrages at the city, on the strategic Shatt-al-Arab waterway, which forms the boundary between the two countries and opens into the head of the Persian Gulf.
Baghdad Radio, according to United Press International, said Iraqi forces were "clearing pockets of resistance and firming up the air-tight siege of Abadan."
Tehran Radio indicated that fighting at Abadan was centered on the bridge over the small Bahmanshir River, on the inland side of the city. It said: "Our armed forces, Revolutionary Guards and the self-sacrificing people continue to resist the Iraqi Baathist agressors stationed around Bahmanshir Bridge, preventing them from entering the town." Iran indicated it was having difficulty resupplying the besieged city.
On other fronts, two U.S.-made Iranian F4 Phantom jets were seen bombing the embattled Iranian port city of Khorramshahr on the Shatt-al-Arab waterway. This was seen as a confirmation of Iraq's claims that it has taken much of the city, which has been bitterly fought over for more than three weeks.
Reporters standing across the Shatt from Khorramshahr could hear artillery but no small arms fire.
Although Iranian jets were reported to have attacked Iraqi supply lines and reserve units, Iraq was said to be consolidating its long seige of Khorramshahr and nearby Abadan.
Iraq's daily military communique said one Iranian warplane had been shot down and 132 Iranian soliders killed in fighting on all fronts Sunday night and yesterday morning. It said 24 Iraqi troops were killed.
In Tehran, Chatti, secretary general of the 40-nation Islamic Conference, said he had brought no peace plan to the Iranian capital, Reuter reported.
He confirmed a Tehran radio report, however, that he had proposed formation of a committee of Islamic heads of state that would meet with representatives of both countries "and try to reach a cease-fire without either of the two losing face."
A spokesman for Chatti told Reuter that when he returned to his headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, he would call for a special meeting of Islamic foreign ministers to discuss the Persian Gulf war.
Tehran radio quoted Chatti as telling Khomeini that after the committee arranged a cease-fire, peace negotiations could begin. The radio quoted Khomeini as saying that such a delegation could vist Iran but only "for investigation of [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein's crimes."
Chatti told Reuter that Khomeini had confirmed Iran's long-held position that it would not negotiate while Iraqi troops remain on its territory.
Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Ali Rajai, on his way home from a two-day visit to the United Nations last week, stopped over in Tripoli, Libya, yesterday and met with Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Salam Jalloud, the official Libyan news agency, JANA, reported. It gave no details of their talks.
The Saudi Press Agency said Iraq's finance minister, Thamir Razuk, met with Saudi King Khalid and other Saudi leaders yesterday. No details were given but Persian Gulf financial sources quoted by UPI said they believe the Iraqi minister is trying to organize a financial aid program for Baghdad's war effort.
Iran's parliamentary speaker, Rafsanjani, in his telephone interview with AP, said the war was not affecting the hostages, who have been held for nearly a year, and that he thought the conditions for their release would be the same as those stated earlier by Khomeini.
These are that the United States release frozen Iranian funds, cancel claims against Iran, return the assets of the late shah and pledge noninterference in that country's affairs.
Asked whether another frequently mentioned condition, a formal apology by the U.S. government, will be required, Rafsanjani said, "Maybe the majority will want it, or maybe not. Don't worry, it will be known in the next two or three days."
Asked whether he thought the hostages would be released, Rafsanjani was quoted as saying. "If America accepts our conditions, yes."
The Iranian parliament, directed by Khomeini to deal with the hostage issue, has appointed a seven-man commission to propose a solution. The commission is expected to report to the parliament sometime in the next several days.