Iran's Majlis (parliament) has been sticking to the four demands set out earlier by Ayatollah Khomeini for release of the 52 American hostages. The parliament, which is expected to wind up its debate on the issue in an open session Oct. 30, will add certain details to Ayatollah Khoneini's demands, however.
Reports leaking out of the parliament building indicate that the Iran-Iraq war and the United States presidential election appeared to be influencing the debate.
Ayatollah Sadeq Khalkhali, one of the first deputies publicly to discuss the first three days of the secret Majlis debate, told reporters Oct. 29:
"Because of the US election, Carter is generous. We should not care about his electoral ambitions. Carter's generosity should not influence us to release the hostages before the election."
Khalkhali has appeared to be in favor of a quick release of the hostages ever since the occupation of the US Embassy last Nov. 4. He pointed out, however, that after Ayatollah Khomeini's speech last month, the demands of Iran's religious leader cannot be neglected.
Khalkhali expressed the belief that the Majlis would not in principle go beyond these demands. "I am in favor of releasing the Americans immediately, but now that the Imam [Khomeini] has listed conditions for their release we must stick to them."
these demands are: unfreezing of Iranian assets in the US, transfer to Iran of the Shah's wealth, cancellation of all US claims against Iran, and a US promise not to intervene in Iran's internal affairs.
Speaking to reporters immediately after the third day of the parliament's debate, Ayatollah Hussein Ali Rahabi appeared to confirm that the deputies are preparing a moderate position (by iranian standards).
"The conditions we are demanding," he said, "will be acceptable to both Iran and the United States." Ayatollah Rahabi, however, refused to detail the conditions under discussion. Together with deputy Movahidi he indicated that the demand for the withdrawal of US naval forces in the Gulf was no longe being considered.
Both Khalkhali and Movahidi insisted that parliament would add certain details to the four Khomeini conditions. Movahidi described these as "secondary conditions."
Khalkhali referred specifically to alleged continued US interference in Iranian affairs. "The US must stop its intervention. they must prove to us that they will not intervene. This is not open to discussion. It is a fact," he said.
Khalkhali continued to point out that "the war against Iraq will take a long time. Many of our people will probably be killed. The reason for this is that the US does not give us the weapons that we have already bought. We need spare parts now. Carter should take international relations into consideration and give them [the parts] to us because Iraq is receiving vital help from the soviet Union."
Despite frequent delays in the past, iranian parliamentarians still appeared to be optimistic about an early end to the hostage issue.
Meanwhile, deputies told Western reporters in Tehran that the reason Khomeini had not mentioned the hostages when addressing a gathering attended by many members of parliament Oct. 28 was that he had vowed earlier not to intervene in the decisionmaking process of the Majlis.
US proposals reportedly transmitted informally to Tehran last week indicated US acceptance of most of Khomeini's demands. The US is said to be willing to promise not to intervene in the internal affairs of Iran. It is equally ready, once the hostages have been safely released, to discuss the resumption of industrial and miltiary sales to Iran.
But regarding Khomeini's other demands the US is said to want to meet Iran only part way. The US links the unfreezing of Iranian assets to Iran's acceptance of its financial commitments toward US citizens.
Well-informed sources in the Iranian capital believe, however, that the Carter administration might soften its stand on this issue.
The US furthermore pointed out that its legal and political system did not allow it simply to transfer the fortune of the late Shah to Iran. The US is willing to facilitate Iranian claims regarding the late shah's fortune in US courts.
Asked whether he understood that the US could not simply transfer the Shah's wealth to Iran, Khalkhali said, "Is that so? I did not know this."