The Iranian government committee studying the U.S. response to Iran's conditions for release of the American hostages is expected to hold an unusual meeting today in Tehran, according to sources in the Iranian capital and in Washington.
The sources viewed the session as an effort by the committee to come up with a reply to the U.S. document before the start of a week-long Moslem religious holiday.
This will be the third such meeting on the still-secret U.S. plan for satisfying Iran's conditions since the Carter adminstration's proposals were received in Tehran three days ago. Informed sources in Tehran, contacted by telephone yesterday, voiced hope that some Iranian response may emerge today.
But other officials interviewed yesterday in both countries doubted that agreement is possible now among the disparate groups fighting for political power in Tehran.
At least three different positions appear to have developed among the major Iranian political forces:
The clergy who dominate the government of Prime Minister Mohammed Ali Rajai seem unwilling to take the lead one way or the other on the hostage release issue and now favor turning the U.S. response over to the Iranian parliament for further study -- and delay.
The moderates who surround Iranian President Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr have pressed for a quick relase of the hostages, but do not have the power to carry it out.
The Western-educated technocrats, who generally side with Bani-Sadr, want to change the U.S. response to guarantee that once the hostages are gone, the Americans will not renege.
When the U.S. response was delivered Wednesday by Algeria's ambassadors to Washington and Tehran, a meeting was held to study the proposal with only Rajai's closest allies present, according to Tehran sources.
The initial word out of Tehran was that more time would be needed, not just to sort out the technical details but because there would be political infighting if only a handful within the clergy-dominated government remained involved in deciding Iran's response.
On Thursday, however, a meeting was called of the broader special committee that had been set up by Rajai to monitor compliance with the hostage release conditions as approved by the parliament.
Headed by a militant anti-American, Executive Affairs Minister Behzad Nabavi, the committee until Thursday had not included representatives of the Bani-Sadr moderates or technocrats. Members of those factions did attend the Thursday session, however.
While the committee was meeting in Tehran, Rajai met with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the revolutionary regime. The announced topic was the war, but there was speculation the hostage issue was also discussed.
Another session of the Nabavi committee was scheduled for today.
Rajai and Nabavi toured the Iran-Iraq battle area yesterday, according to Reuter news agency.
The four conditions, as approved by parliament, called for the United States to pledge not to interfere in Iran government affairs; to release more than $8 billion in Iranian assets that President Carter ordered frozen a year ago in response to the seizing of the U.S. hostages; to cancel all American corporate and individual claims that have been filed in U.S. courts against the Iranian government; and to return the wealth of the late shah and his immediate family that had been transferred to the United States from Iran.
The pledge of noninterference in Iranian affairs has already been made in several forms.
More difficult is reaching some common agreement on how to handle the frozen assets, the legal claims and the shah's wealth.
The U.S. response reportedly has spelled out various ways to handle these matters within the context of U.S. law.
Technocrats in both countries recognize that further negotiations on these complex financial issues could work out some middle ground that would permit freeing the assets, while preserving the right of U.S. companies and individuals to seek payment for claims. They would be handled, however, by an international commission with Iranian funds held in escrow to cover any awards.
Before that stage can be reached, however, some agreement in principle has to be concluded on this approach to the hostage release conditions. It is on that point, sources say, that the Iranians themselves have failed to come together.