The speaker of Iran's parliament was quoted today as saying that Iran might not require the United States to immediately meet all conditions for the release of the American hostages but might instead accept U.S. pledges to work toward their fulfillment.
Parliamentary Speaker Hojatoleslam Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who only a day earlier had warned that Iran might attach new conditions to the four previously advanced by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, offered his new assessment in an interview in the Paris daily Le Monde.
"There are certain conditions that the Americans can execute immediately," Rafsanjani said, "for example the unfreezing of our bank deposits, pledging to end all interference in our internal affairs and renouncing definitively the plots that it has ceaselessly fomented against us." The U.S. government, he said, would then have to pledge to work toward carrying out any other requirements that could not be done immediately, he said.
Rafsanjani's remarks came as other Iranian officials urged against speculation on the outcome of a parliamentary debate Sunday on the fate of the 52 American held hostage for nearly a year. Meanwhile, at the Vatican, Pope John Paul II and Mohammed Bagher Nassin Sadat, Iran's ambassador to Italy, met privately amid specualation -- but no confirmation -- that the discussion was related to the hostages.
An aide to Iran's Prime Minister Mohammed Ali Rajai, who identified himself only as "Sharifi, head of the prime minister's office," told United Press International in a telephone interview that it was pointless to speculate on what the parliament might decide about the hostages Sunday.
Reuter quoted Hojatoleslam Mohammed Ali Khamencei, a senior Iranian clergyman who is a member of the seven-man commission setting conditions for the hostages' release, as telling a prayer meeting that Iran would never trade the captives for U.S. help in the war against Iraq.
"I declare we have never asked America to help us in this war and we never will," he said.
The basic conditions to be debated by the Majlis were laid down Sept. 12 by Khomeini, who said the hostages could be freed if Washington met four basic demands: the unfreezing of the $8 billion in blocked Iranian assets; the returning of all the wealth of the late shah of Iran banked abroad; the dropping of all legal claims against Iran; and an agreement not to interfere again in the country's internal affairs.
Khomeini did not mention earlier demands for an explicit apology by Washington for its support of the shah and his repressive policies. Other Iranian officials, however, said that the 80-year-old Khomeini had merely "forgotten" that condition.
An apology was expected to be added to the basic four demands by the parliamentary commission when it reports out to the Majlis Iran's final demands.
Optimism about the parliamentary debate has been fueled by Prime Minister Rajai, an Islamic fundamentalist, who early this week said that as far as he was concerned Washington had already apologized for its previous actions in Iran, even though that apology still remained to be put on paper. Rajai also said that it was his impression -- presumably from secret communications transmitted to Tehran through neutral embassies as well as President Carter's own recent public conciliatory statement -- that Washington was prepared to meet Khomeini's basic demand.
Skepticism, however, hinges on the fact that in the past all moves toward finding a rational and face-saving solution to the hostage issue have been sabotaged by the militants who, in the face of the disruption that continues to stalk the land, have easily been able to frustrate any deal.
Only Khomeini has the authority to impose a solution and so far he has shown himself unwilling to do so, saying that the Majlis, as unpredictable and unruly a body as any in the country, must make the final decision.