Buoyed by signs of Iranian cooperation, the five big powers of the United Nations Security Council have implicitly endorsed the accommodation of Iranian demands that a cease-fire in the seven-year-old Iran-Iraq conflict should be linked to an impartial investigation into the origins of the conflict. And to overcome Iraq's objections, the five permanent members propose adding two more requirements to the ``first-step'' package: agreement by the combatants on a timetable for withdrawal to international boundaries and on the exchange of prisoners.
UN diplomats indicate that Iran has displayed just enough accomodation to escape any UN-ordered sanctions for now. Potential stumbling blocks still mark each step of the UN's negotiations to bring the Iran-Iraq war to an end.
The five big powers are expected in the next few days to propose to others on the 15-member Security Council that the Secretary-General be authorized to explore a compromise formula that would balance what the two parties are asking for. The message to both Iran and Iraq is that neither side can pick only those elements they like from the Security Council's mandatory Resolution 598. The resolution, adopted unanimously last July, calls for a cease-fire and a negotiated end to all hostilities.
The council is also expected, for the first time, make an explicit endorsement of the plan to implement Resolution 598 that Secretary-General Javier P'erez de Cu'ellar discussed on his recent visit to Tehran and Baghdad. That plan proposes that the cease-fire start on a specific ``D-day,'' to which all the other elements of the resolution would be linked.
Both Iran and Iraq have said they accept the proposed plan though much work remains to get the combatants to fill in all the missing details.