Argentine officials indicated today their possible acceptance of a Security Council resolution that would call for a cease-fire on the Falkland Islands simultaneous with the start of Argentine troop withdrawal.
But the British ambassador, Sir Anthony Parsons, said he needed a more specific linkage between the cease-fire and Argentine withdrawal, and he demanded further changes to remove possible ambiguities in the resolution put forward yesterday by Panama and Spain.
Argentina, as well as Panama and Spain, which today amended their resolution to add new provisions, pressed for a vote tonight. But they agreed to wait until Friday after Parsons requested a delay.
Nevertheless, today's developments provided the first possible signal that Argentina might accept the British demand linking unilateral Argentine withdrawal to a cease-fire.
An Argentine Foreign Ministry spokesman in Buenos Aires told Washington Post correspondent Jackson Diehl that he was not familiar with the details of the resolution and could not speak to the question of unilateral withdrawal. He said, however, "There is no way that Argentina would ever agree to a reinstatement of a British administration on the Falklands."
Brig. Jose Miret, an Argentine representative at the United Nations, expressed the same sentiment Thursday morning in a radio interview. "We would gladly accept a cease-fire," he said. "But we cannot do it with the English demands that we should withdraw our troops from the islands. This is inadmissible."
The private news service Noticias Argentinas quoted diplomatic sources in New York as saying Argentine plans for a cease-fire called for a British withdrawal 24 hours after Argentina pulls out.
Although Britain had agreed to an interim administration for the islands, perhaps under the United Nations, during earlier stages of negotiations, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher now insists on reinstalling full British administration as well as Argentine withdrawal.
British diplomats said that, in addition to wanting more explicit linkage, they sought to eliminate from the resolution any reference to the U.N. peace plan put forward by Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar before the British landing on the Falklands. The secretary general's plan called for a mutual troop withdrawal, which Britain now rejects, and includes a provision for temporary U.N. administration while the long-term status of the islands is negotiated.
The original resolution submitted by Spain and Panama yesterday at Argentina's behest called for an unconditional cease-fire, and Britain adamantly opposed it. Today the sponsors expanded the resolution to include Security Council Resolution 502, seeking a cease-fire and an Argentine withdrawal, and Resolution 505, asking the secretary general to negotiate acceptable terms for a cease-fire using a plan he offered earlier.
Panamanian representative Leonardo Kam told reporters that Panama and Spain are "speaking for" Argentina in submitting today's amendment.
The chief Argentine representative, Enrique Ros, however, refused to discuss with reporters his stand toward the Spanish-Panamanian draft. But one of his deputies said Argentina would accept it--although the retention of the reference to the secretary general's peace plan "matters a lot."
The Argentine diplomat also accepted the interpretation that the Spanish-Panamanian resolution would require Argentina to commence unilateral withdrawal of its troops simultaneous with the cease-fire. He cautioned, however, in a clear reference to the specifics of the secretary general's plan for U.N. involvement in a cease-fire, that "we must sit down and discuss first by whom, how and when. Modalities are important."
In the past, Argentina has interpreted a cessation of hostilities as including a withdrawal of British forces and has couched acceptance of Resolution 502 with that stipulation. If the Argentine diplomat's interpretation of Buenos Aires' current position is borne out, it would represent a major shift in the Argentine position.
The amendment was offered when it became clear that the draft resolution could not get the necessary nine-vote majority on the 15-nation council that would force a British veto. Argentina has sought to force the veto to show British isolation and intransigence.
The amendment would "request the parties simultaneously to commence the cease-fire, and the implementation of Security Council Resolutions 502 and 505 in their totality."
Resolution 502, adopted April 3, the day after the Argentine invasion, demands a cease-fire and Argentine withdrawal, to be followed by negotiations.
Resolution 505, adopted on May 26, asked the secretary general to negotiate acceptable terms for a cease-fire "bearing in mind" the ideas he proposed for a settlement before the British invasion.
It is this reference that the British want to delete and that the Argentines were seeking to retain. By keeping the Perez de Cuellar plan alive, even tenuously, Argentina could at least assert its claim to a U.N. role that might bolster its objective of attaining sovereignty over the Falklands.
One Western diplomat who backs the British position interpreted the Argentine concession to mean that Buenos Aires is desperate to achieve a cease-fire, even on British terms, before the British launch their drive on Stanley, the island's capital.
Parsons told reporters that although the resolution is "improved" by the amendment, "it is not improved enough." He said the new wording "could be the beginning of a change my government could live with."