In what was seen as a favorable sign for resolution of the hostage crisis, former Iranian foreign minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh was reported released from jail last night on personal orders from Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran's Islamic revolution.
Ghotbzadeh's departure from Tehran's Evin Prison, reported by Reuter and confirmed by an aide reached at his home in the Iranian capital, marked an apparent victory for those officials in Tehran seeking a swift release of the 52 Americans captive for more than a year. Conversely, it seemed to be a setback for hardliners in the Islamic Republican Party who had forced Ghotbzadeh's arrest three days ago and some of whom still have misgivings about handing back the hostages.
This was emphasized by reports from Tehran that Ghotbzadeh was freed only after a visit to the prison by Hojatoleslam Ahmed Khomeini, the Moslem patriarch's son and political aide, and that the elder Khomeini himself took sides to end the dispute that had landed Ghotbzadeh in jail last Friday.
Ghotbzadeh's imprisonment had shone a spotlight on the enduring struggle between Moslem fundamentalists who support the party and relative moderates associated with President Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr. In this context, Khomeini's reported intervention against the fundamentalists appeared likely to stregthen the hand of the moderates, improving their chances of securing a swift release of the hostages.
Bani-Sadr, underlining the differences, said yesterday that getting rid of the hostage issue quickly would help Iran in its war with Iraq because Tehran would be able to use its assets frozen in U.S. banks and take shipment of military supplies purchased from the United States but held up in U.S. depots because of the hostages. f
President Carter has said the assets would be freed and the supplies shipped once the hostages are freed. In the efforts to arrange this, Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher delivered to Algerian intermediaries for relay to Tehran a set of detailed U.S. replies to the Iranian parliament's release conditions.
The speaker of the Iranian parliament, or Majlis, Hojatoleslam Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, hinted at a news conference in Tehran that Majlis members are growing impatient for response to their requirements: return of the late shah's wealth, a pledge of noninterference, unfreezing the assets and dropping legal claims against Iran. n
"It is now the turn of America," he said. "They should not expect any more from our side. If these conditions are not met, then the hostages will remain here and will be tried."
Bani-Sadr, at a news conference in embattled Khuzestan Province, also underlined the need for speed. "If the question were resolved in a week, we would take advantage and make use of the means outside and replenish our equipment," he said. "But if it takes more time, then it won't have much effect."
In his remarks, broadcast by the official Tehran radio and relayed by news agencies, Bani-Sadr nevertheless reiterated Iranian charges that the United States is supporting Iraq in the war and is finding advantage in the seven-week-old conflict.
"I think the Americans have had an active role in this war," he said, according to the radio. "And they have taken the main profit, too. And this is an imperialist service [President] Saddam Hussein [of Iraq] has rendered to the Americans."
In the fighting, Iranian helicopters attacked Iraqi strongholds east of the besieged oil city of Abadan and an airborne division killed 100 Iraqi soldiers near Ahwaz, a key pipeline junction north of Abadan an Iranian communique said.
Bani-Sadr, who the radio said was wrapping up a month-long stay in the war zone, reiterated past claims that the Iraqi advance into Khuzestan Province has been broken. Iranian defenders, he added, have "effectively stopped the enemy and are hoping to begin the second stage of the fighting, which is the pushing back of the enemy to where they came from."