Iraq's ruling Baath Party has accused the Carter administration of tilting toward Iran in the 32-day-old Persian Gulf war in an effort to win freedom for the American hostages as an election-eve ploy.
The charge, contained in an editiorial in the Baath Party newspaper, Al Thawra, came amid increasing fears here that the United States is willing to make some sort of a deal with Iran to secure release of 52 American hostages taken when militant Islamic students seized the American Embassy in Tehran almost one year ago.
Iran and Iraq both claimed, meanwhile, to have sunk several of each other's naval vessels in separate engagements. The official Iranian radio said three Soviet-built Osa class missile ships were sunk in the Khurmousa region near the Iranian cargo port of Bandar Khomeini and that two other unspecified warships went down off Khowre Musa, an inlet in the Persian Gulf near the besieged oil refinery city of Abadan.
Iraq, for its part, said it sank Iranian ships in the disputed Shatt-al-Arab waterway, which runs between the two countries and on which Iraq's only port of Basra and Iran's major port of Khorramshr are located.
In the continuing battle for Khorramshar and Abadan, Iraq said infantry and tanks were consolidating their hold on the cities while Iran said its troops, reinforced by tribes-men from the central mountains, were putting up stiff resistance.
Iran today also mounted strafing raids by F4 Phantom fighter-bombers and helicopter gunships on Iraqi ground forces near Khorramshahr and Abadan in an attempt to break the seige. Other Iranian jets and helicopters were reported to have attacked at Sar-e-Pol-e-Zahab, in the northern part of the war zone, and at Aqrah, Kirkuk, Suleimaniyeh and Qader Karam inside Iraq.
Six Iranian planes were shot down during the day's air action, which killed five Iraqi soldiers and eight Iraqi children, a communique from the Iraqi command said.
The Al Thawra editorial reflected Iraqi aprehension over the increasingly explicit gestures from Washington toward Iran designed to win goodwill in Tehran in hopes of getting the hostages freed. Presdident Carter said Monday that he would resume relations with Iran if the hostages were released, including trade relations and a lifting of the freeze on Iranian assets in U.S. financial insitutions.
This raised the possibility that Washington would ship to Iran some of the badly needed military equipment and spare parts purchased by the Iranian government but held up in the United States because of the U.S. embargo imposed to pressure for release of the hostages.
Foreign Minister Saadoun Hammadi of Iraq warned last week at the United Nations that Iraq would consider resumption of arms shipments to Iran a violation of the United States' proclaimed neutrality, and that he had communicated this to Secretary of State Edmund Muskie during their meeting in New York shortly after the war broke out.
The Al Thawra editorial called the administration's subsequent promise part of "carter's painstaking endeavors for the release of the hostages at any cost." It accused Carter of playing "the hostage card" in an effort to win electorial votes.
"We can easily relate the American regime's public hints on its readiness to supply the Persian regime with arms and ammunition to save it from an inevitable defeat," said Al Thawra, which like other Iraqi newspapers is closely controlled by the government.
The newspaper termed "ridiculous" what it said were statements by Muskie that Iraq wants to annex parts of Iran.
Yet today's issue of the Baghdad Observer, an English-language newspaper published in Baghdad, carried an article and map on "Arabestan," the province of Iran currently being invaded by Iraq.
The article called it "the eastern flank of the Arab homeland" and said it "is a natural geographic extension of the alluvial plan of Iraq." The area of Iran referred to as Arabestan here is the oil-rich Khuzestan Province, populated largely by Arabs and under attack by Iraqi forces.
Iran's major port of Khorramshahr, which has been under Iraqi siege for more than four weeks, and the oil refinery city of Abadan, also under siege, are of Khuzestan. It is the source of much of Iran's wealth, and the Arab residents there have been agitating against the central government for more local autonomy. But there has been no evidence since the war started last month that the Khuzestan residents welcomed the Iraqi invaders.
In peace efforts, Habib Chatti, Secretary General of the Islamic Conference, conferred in Islamabad today with President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq of Pakistan on efforts to arrange a truce. The two men were appointed by the Islamic nations as peacemakers between the two warring Moslem states.
Chatti, who had just come from visits to both Tehran and Baghdad, said that Iraq had agreed in principle to a proposal to set up a special committee of Islamic heads of state to end the war, but wanted certain guarantees. Iran insisted there could be no negotiations until Iraq leaves Iranian territory.
Although there were increasing signs that the Islamic efforts may be overtaken by U.N. Security Council moves, Yugoslavia also was reported today to be trying to launch a mediation effort by nonaligned nations.
The official Tehran radio said a Yugoslav official raised the possiblity of such a mediation with President Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr during a meeting in Khuzestan Province, where the Iranian leader has set up headquarters to be near the war front. The radio suggested the proposal had little chance, however, quoting Bani-Sadr as saying:
"Nonalignment means that you should ask the aggressor why it has launched such an invasion. If you want to have a meeting for this purpose, it will be a very good meeting and we have already made this proposal."