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Internal strains push Iran clerics to yield

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Diplomats believe that the issue will indeed revert to parliament, "but that it is so complicated that the Iranians need time to digest the whole thing." They point out, however, that "the real decision" is not made in the Majlis but within the Islamic Republican Party (IRP).

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Uproar about the arrest of Iran's former foreign minister, Sadeq Ghotbzadeh, Nov. 7 has made the IRP acutely aware of the effects of the growing strain of the war effort on the population -- and increasing resentment against the "mullah-cracy." Mr. Ghotbzadeh's first public appearance after his release turned into a massive protest in the Tehran bazaar Nov. 15 against the IRP's dominant role in Iranian politics.

Shortages of essential goods and the rationing of sugar and gasoline have caused a sharp rise in prices. Iranians tell stories of incidents with mullahs controlling the rationing at Tehran's filling stations.

Iran's fundamentalist clergy now hopes to relieve the pressures by resolving the hostage issue and paving the way for a flow of nonmilitary goods and credit to Iran.

By the same token, Iran is keeping its options open for a political solution to the Gulf war. "Without decreasing our military efforts we are now more open to political solutions," a close aide to President Bani-Sadr told the Monitor Nov. 16, indicating a major change in Iranian attitudes.

Iran's Foreign Ministry last week asked the Secretary-General of the Conference of Islamic Countries, Habib Chatti, to go ahead with plans for a six-nation goodwill mission to Iran and Iraq. Former Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme is expected Nov. 17 in Tehran to "investigate [on behalf of UN Secretary- General Kurt Waldhem] the prospects of peace." Cuba's Foreign Minister Isidoro Malmierca was expected late Nov. 16 back in Tehran from Baghdad.

The Cuban official is said to carry with him an Iraqi reply to a nonaligned five-point plan for calling for:

* A cease-fire and withdrawal of Iraqi troops.

* Adherence and implementation of the 1975 Algiers Agreement.

* Establishment of a joint committee to oversee navigation in the Shatt al Arab waterway.

* Noninterference in the internal affairs of both countries.

* An end to the propaganda warfare.

Iran's Islamic leadership avoided since the overthrow of the Shah any acknowledgement of the Algiers Agreement, which calls for the return of approximately 400 square kilometers of Iranian territory in Iraq. Iran, aides to President Bani-Sadr now claim, is ready to return this territory should Iraq withdraw to the borders before the eruption of the Gulf war. But Iran still refuses to sit with Iraq at the negotiating table as long as Iraqi troops remain on the Iranian soil.

Diplomats and political analysts in Tehran, conceding that Iraq's President Saddam Hussein had long called for a cease-fire and negotiations, find it hard to believe that Iran's interpretation of the Cuban plan will be acceptable to Iraq. This, they say, could work in favor of keeping up the internal pressure for a quick resolution of the hostage crisis. Said one Iranian government official: "They [the fundamentalists] are now desperate for a solution. It is their only way out."