The U.S. response to conditions for the hostages' release was delivered to the Iranian government yesterday, but a Tehran legislator charged that Washington was stalling on the issue amid indications that Iran's fractious parliament might again become involved.
An Iranian government spokesman said the contents of the American reply to four conditions set by Iran's parliament Nov. 2 would be made public within the next couple of days, news services reported from the Iranian capital.
In Washington, President Carter told reporters that he could not predict how the Iranians would react but that he thought the American response was adequate.
"It's up to the Iranians," Carter said. "It would be to their advantage and to ours to resolve this issue without further delay." He added, "I think our answers are adequate, and I believe the Iranian proposal was a basis for resolution of the difficulties."
The prospect that the Iranian parliament, or Majlis, could again become involved in the hostage issue was raised at a news conference by Ayatollah Mohammed Beheshti, the head of the powerful Islamic Republican Party that dominates the assembly. He indicated that the Majlis may be asked to decide whether the U.S. response satisfied the Iranian conditions. It was not clear whether Beheshti himself had already seen the reply, however.
The American reply was handed to Iranian Executive Affairs Minister Behzad Nabavi in Tehran by the Algerian ambassadors to Tehran and Washington two days after U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher personally delivered the response to Algerian intermediaries in Algiers.
After returning to Washington at midday yesterday, Christopher went to the White House to report to President Carter on his mission.
"Where we go from here will depend upon the reaction of the Iranians to our response," Christopher said after landing at Andrews Air Force Base. "All I can say is that we will continue to do everything within our power in what is a profoundly difficult and complicated situation." He said he had no idea when the Iranians would react, but that this was likely to take "several days" and that, therefore, he had decided not to wait in Algeria.
In Tehran, meanwhile, hostage Bruce Laingen, contacted by a Seattle radio station, said that he and two colleagues held at the Iran Foreign Ministry were "totally out of touch" with the dealings on the hostage issue between Tehran and Washington.
"We're anxious to leave, hopeful," Laingen told station KAYO in a telephone interview. The embassy charge d'affaires said he was "fine," adding that "right now it's a time for patience, time for calm, time for cool resolve and a time of confidence it will soon be over."
However, an indication that the Iranian regime might be as divided in deciding how to reply to the U.S. answer as it was in setting the terms for the hostages' release came during a public parliamentary debate yesterday. A Tehran deputy, Fakhreddin Hijazi, charged that Washington was delaying a solution to the issue to have an excuse for "aggression" against Iran.
"America is plotting to prevent the spread of Iran's Islamic revolution," Hijazi said, according to Iran's official Pars New Agency." America wants to sell arms to us to ease the recession of its economy. But we will fight America tooth and nail."
In suggesting that the hostage issue may be thrown back to the parliament, Ayatollah Beheshti said that a U.S. explanation of its position would be a good starting point for resolving the hostage issue, but that he was unsure whether the American reply was sufficiently clear, Reuter news agency reported from Tehran.
Asked about Iranian terms that American officials have said may be legally impossible to meet, Beheshti said, "If they seriously want to find a legal solution for these points, I think they can."
In confirming that the U.S. response has been received by Executive Affairs Minister Nabavi, a spokesman for his office told Reuter that the government was still "discussing" the transfer of the hostages from their militant student captors' control.