John B. Anderson called today for the Carter administration to spell out what is going on in the Iranian hostage negotiations to "allay suspicions" that the president is using the hostages for political gain.
"I do believe the manner of their release, the timing of the release, what the quid pro quo will be and how it was arranged . . . is something the American people have a right to know," the independent presidential candidate told a noontime audience here.
"That right to know is now, not after the election," he added in an impassioned reply to a question from the audience.
"I don't want any October surprises," the Illinois congressman told the Detroit Women's Economic Club. "I don't think we want to find the election has been decided on the basis of some sleight of hand."
The statements were the strongest that the normally cautious Anderson has made about the Iranian hostage situation. They came as the Carter administration was indicating that it may be able to meet conditions the Iranian government is likely to impose for releasing the 52 hostages.
In a sharp attack on Carter's use of the hostage situation "in a political way" all year, Anderson questioned the timing of the current moves, less than two weeks before the election.
During the speech and a press conference that followed, he cited Carter's using the hostages as an excuse to avoid debating Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in the Democratic primaries, and his going on national television shortly after 7 a.m. on April 1, the morning of the Wisconson primary, to announce hopeful signs in the hostage situation. The announcement proved unfounded.
Carter, he said, "finds it very convenient to use the mystique of his office on an issue over which the president has total control" and his opponents have little real information.
Anderson said he sees no harm in Carter's outlining now "what the position of our government is" in the hostage regotiations, and in revealing to the public what conditions the administration is prepared to meet.
"For all too long we've accepted this idea that debate and discussion prevents the release of the hostages," he said. "Is there any reason to think that not discussing it has accelerated their release? They've been in chains for almost a year now."
At every stop today, Anderson tried to counter what he called a campaign of fear being waged against his independent candidacy by the Republican and Democratic parties.
The two parties and their nominees, he said, have tried to "push the voters of this country into a quicksand of fear" by suggesting they should vote for either Carter or Ronald Reagan out of fear of the other.
In another development, the Anderson campaign cut off salaries for about 200 staff members, some living on subsistence wages of $100 a week or less. The $118,000 the campaign hopes to save is to be used for television advertising, spokesman said.