The Iranian parliament's special hostage commission today issued four conditions for the release of the U.S. hostages, and the assembly immediately began an acrimonious debate on the terms.
The four conditions were essentially those announced by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in a speech Sept. 12, with some details and embelishments added by the seven-member commission.
The commission said that if all the conditions were met, the 52 Americans would be released. If time is needed to implement the conditions, the report said, a number of hostages to be decided on by the parliament would be freed as each condition was satisfied.
"If the United States does not meet the conditions, the judiciary system is entitled to try and punish the hostages according to existing Islamic law," said Ayatollah Moussavi Khoini, the commission's chairman who read the report to the parliament.
In Washington, a State Department spokesman had no immediate comment on the commission's report.
Immediately after the conditions were announced, at least 40 legislators asked to speak on the terms, according to a live Iranian radio broadcast of the parliamentary session. The first began by objecting to a clause in one of the conditions concerning the unfreezing of Iranian assets and insisted that the United States should also be asked to withdraw four AWACS radar planes sent to Saudi Arabia following the outbreak of the Iranian-Iraqi war. The parliamentary deputy also charged that the United States could not be trusted to meet its end of any deal.
The four conditions announced by the commission were:
A U.S. guarantee not to interfere in the political and military affairs of Iran in the future.
The unfreezing of all Iranian assets held in the United States or by American institutions and the reversal of all decisions issued by U.S. courts regarding Iran's assets.
The nullification of all economic and monetary acts against Iran and the suspension of all claims by the U.S. government or U.S. private institutions against Iran, with a stipulation that if Iran loses in an American court case for damages against the Iranian government the United States is responsible for meeeting the claims.
The return of the shah's wealth and the recognition by the United States that Iran has the right to take over his assets and those of his family.
The Iranian parliament opened its potentially decisive session on the U.S. hostages after the Islamic militants holding the Americans called for a massive demonstration at the occupied U.S. Embassy to coincide with the first anniversary of the captives' seizure.
According to a live Iranian radio broadcast of the parliamentary meeting, 187 legislators assembled for the session, or eight more than needed for a quorum. A previous attempt to discuss the hostage issue was stymied on Thursday when hard-liners opposed to the Americans' release boycotted the parliament and prevented a quorum. The commissions report on conditions was read after some preliminary speeches that immediately degenerated into a shouting match between rival parliamentarians.
Parliament Speaker Hojatoleslam Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said that after opening prayers and speeches, the assembly would "study the problem of the spies."
The militants' call yesterday for a "grand demonstration" and an unspecified public "program" at the embassy on Tuesday came as influential Iranian news media appeared to be laying the rhetorical groundwork for a parliamentary decision to come to terms with the United States and order the hostages freed.
The significance of the militants' demonstration call was not immediately clear. Earlier this year, they organized demonstrations in front of the embassy in a successful bid to block a plan to transfer the hostages to the control of the government under President Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr.
In an indication that a parliamentary vote on terms for the hostages' release might come in today's session, the newspaper of the powerful Islamic Republican Party said in an editorial yesterday that Iran should declare conditions before the U.S. presidential election on Tuesday, which coincides with the anniversary of the hostages' captivity.
The Islamic Republican Party represents a majority in the 228-member parliament, although hardline elements within the party have sought to buck the party leadership and put off debate on the hostages.
According to a parliamentary spokesman quoted by Reuter, today's session was scheduled to include a report by a special seven-man commission set up to draft terms for the hostages' release. This was to be followed by a debate and a vote, after which "we must wait for the U.S. answer," the spokesman said.
It was not immediately clear whether the parliament would be able to vote today, given the large number of deputies waiting to speak.
In an announcement broadcast by Iran's official radio, the militant Moslem students said that after Tuesday's demonstration, "a ceremony is to be held at the spy nest," the militants' terms for the occupied embassy. The statement said details of the ceremony would be announced later.
A spokesman for the militants told the French news agency, Agence France-Presse, in Tehran that the Iranian public would be permitted to go inside the embassy for the first time since it was seized on Nov. 4, 1979.
"Everybody can enter the nest of spies," the spokesman told AFP. He added cryptically that "the hostages are not on the program." One interpretation of this circulating in Tehran was that the hostages have been taken out of the embassy, or will be by Tuesday.
Recently, the militants said publicly that they would go along with any decision by the parliament, even if they disagreed with it.
Another announcement subject to conflicting interpretations was made in a commentary yesterday by the official radio, which generally reflects the views of hard-liners in the Iranian administration.It accused the United States and the West of trying to force Iran into a deal to release the hostages and make the country dependent on the West.
The radio said that "for the release of the hostages, America must accept the proposed conditions approved by the Majlis," or parliament.
It added, "As the prime minister pointed out, under no conditions are we ready to entertain any compromise with America for the sake of war [pressures] and the need for spare parts. However, we shall get our rights from America. . . . We shall drag the equipment out of America's throat."
The editorial in the newspaper Islamic Republic appeared to reflect a preception in Iranian ruling circles that Iran can get a better deal for the hostages' release before the U.S. election than after.
According to Reuter news agency in Tehran, the editorial said that in the period before the U.S. election, "America is ready to give more concessions. If this opportunity is missed, the next American president . . . will see no reason to submit to the rights of our nation."
However, the newspaper warned that if the United States did not meet Iran's conditions, the hostages would remain in captivity and might be tried as spies.
A high-ranking Iranian government official reached by telephone in Tehran yesterday said he believed that Islamic Republican Party leaders now wanted to resolve the hostage issue quickly.
If a key condition for the release of Iranian assets were accepted, the official said, it is expected that a commission will be set up to handle the transfer of the assets, perhaps with a third country as a guarantor.
Acceptance of another condition sey by Khomeini, that the United States cancel all claims against Iran, could result in the establishment of an independent tribunal in a third country to handle U.S. individual and corporate financial claims and Iranian counterclaims, according to sources in Washington.