Iran expects to make "some practical suggestions" to help resolve the issue of the 52 American hostages, an Iranian government official said yesterday.
Behzad Nabavi, Iran's minister for executive affairs, told a CBS News interviewer, "We are not going to make everything difficult. We are going to find easy ways to finish the job."
Nabavi, who is in charge of the committee reviewing the most recent U.S. response on the conditions for the hostages' release, said the review would be completed in "the next day or two."
Asked if the latest U.S. position showed progress over the earlier one, Nabavi replied, "Yes, that is true."
In Washington, a top official involved in the complex dealings over the hostages said he had reviewed the Nabavi interview and was uncertain of its meaning.
"I'm going to wait until we hear from the Algerians," he said.
Algerian diplomats are serving as intermediaries in the complex discussions between Iran and the United States over conditions for release of the hostages.
The four conditions, first declared Sept. 12 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, call for a declaration by the United States that it will not interfere in Iran's internal affairs, the release of Iranian assets frozen by President Carter 10 days after the hostages were seized, the removal of all U.S. legal claims against Iran, and the return of the fortune of the late shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and his family.
Nabavi's statements could be read several ways, according to sources familiar with the hostage situation.
The "practical suggestions" could be as simple as restating Iran's earlier position that the president could issue an order canceling the more than 300 legal claims against Iran now on file in American courts.
If the "suggestions" in any way change Iran's position as voted by its parliament, the Majlis -- such as accepting the idea of an international commission to settle the claims issue -- Nabavi may need the approval of the Majlis before the proposals could be passed on to the United States.
Several Washington officials believe Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Rajai would go back to the Majlis before accepting any American counterproposal on any of the approved conditions for the hostages release.
In Iran, the hostage issue is secondary these days to the bitter fighting between Rajai and Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr. Neither of those competitors wants to offend the Majlis, least of all Rajai, whose Iranian Revolutionary Party controls that body.
The speaker of the Majlis, Hojatoleslam Hashemi Rafsanjani, though he favors ending the hostage crisis, has made it clear he wants the United States to accept the conditions as approved by the parliament.
Since the Majlis approved the conditions Nov. 2, Iran and the United States have been exchanging statements through the Algerians on how those conditions could be implemented.
In yesterday's interview, Nabavi repeated what most Iranian leaders have also said: that "Iran has achieved all it wanted to from seizure of the embassy and is not interested in any financial gain."
Nabavi also repeated the standard Iranian position that his country wanted its economic situation to return to what it was before the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was seized, and more than $8 billion in Iranian assets were frozen by Carter.
A week after the Majlis approved the four conditions, Undersecretary of State Warren Christopher led an American team to Algiers, where it briefed the intermediaries for three days on the U.S. position on the terms.
Essentially, there was no problem in giving assurances on noninterference in Iran's affairs. The freeze on Iranian assets also was easily handled -- the president could remove it just as he had applied it.
However, the legal claims against Iran -- which in turn could keep those frozen assets in the United States -- could not be removed by presidential order, according to the American position. And the United States said it would help get the late shah's fortune back by trying to identify what of that fortune was in the United States and by giving assistance in court. It would not nationalize the wealth and turn it over to Iran, as the Majlis wanted.
The Algerians passed the U.S. response on to the Iranians in mid-November and came to Washington with Tehran's reply on Nov. 23.The only public word on its contents came from Rajai, who said in a news conference that he was looking for "clarifications" on some points.