Iranian President Ali Khamenei lashed out at the United States yesterday in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly. He also offered no concessions on the UN plan to end the war in the Gulf. The failure of Iran to unambiguously accept the cease-fire plan seems to shift the focus back to the UN Security Council and to discussion on possible sanctions. President Reagan, in a speech to the General Assembly Monday, had challenged Iran to take a definitive stand, saying that its failure to accept a cease-fire would force the Council to consider enforcement measures.
In a last-minute addition to his prepared text, Mr. Khamenei called the US the ``instigator'' of Monday night's incident in the Gulf, in which a US helicopter gunship attacked an Iranian vessel. At least three Iranians were killed and four wounded. US forces said the ship was caught laying sea mines off the Bahrain coast.
``It was a peaceful merchant ship,'' Mr. Khamenei claimed. ``This is the beginning of a series of events the bitter consequences of which will not be restricted to the Persian Gulf. ... I declare here unambiguously that the US shall receive a proper response for this abominable act.''
The US delegation walked out in protest at the speech.
Khamenei's position on the war was hard-line. He continued to insist on Iran's longstanding condition for accepting a cease-fire - that Iraq's government be branded the aggressor and be punished for invading Iran exactly seven years ago yesterday.
``We look back at the irrecoverable cost of this imposed war, we ... believe that without punishing the aggressor, any other achievement would be a loss for our people,'' he said. ``As a nation who has borne the burden of a seven-year war, we long for peace more than anybody else, but we believe that peace, a lasting peace, can only be established in the light of punishing an aggressor who has added many other sins to the original sin of aggression... .''
Khamenei dismissed UN Resolution 598, which called for an end to all hostilities, without explicitly mentioning it. He simply said that ``the Security Council's stance in relation to the war that was imposed on us has not changed up to this moment.''
Khamenei's comments on the war were sandwiched between a religious sermon on the values that Islam and Iran's Islamic revolution offer humanity, and a call for the third world to unite to make the UN a truly popular organization by eliminating veto power and the right of permanent membership in the Security Council. He also denounced corruption, called for a strengthening the family, and championed women's development.
The speech, UN analysts said, was as much intended for home consumption as for proselytizing the world community. It was reportedly broadcast live to Iran on the seventh anniversary, almost to the hour, of Iraq's massive 1980 land invasion of Iran.
US officials, who had expressed skepticism about Iran's intentions before the speech, rejected the accusations made by Khamenei and repeated the call for Iran to accept the cease-fire.
On Monday, Secretary of State George Shultz had said at a news conference that ``there is still a firm decision to have the UN do everything possible to bring this war to an end. But if there is an inability to come to grips with a cease-fire under the present circumstances, then we'll have to move on.''
Mr. Shultz admitted, however, that experience shows that sanctions are difficult to apply. But he said, ``If all members [of the Council] make a conscious effort to see that there is no arms flow to a given country, it's going to cut the flow down a great deal, maybe even stop it, certainly make it more expensive.''
The secretary added: ``It'll be a big problem. And it's going to have an impact. That's why people are treating it gingerly''.
Though all the permanent members of the Security Council are now reportedly agreed to pursue enforcement measures if Iran clearly does not agree to carry out Resolution 598, it is recognized that this may take some time to work out in the Council.
Japan's Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, who also spoke at the UN Monday, hinted at a possible intermediate step: Council members voluntarily announcing a halt to all shipment of arms to the two combatants.
``I must emphasize,'' Mr. Nakasone said, ``that, as a general principle, it is of utmost importance for the termination of any conflict and the establishment of peace that all countries strictly refrain from providing weapons to either party.''