For the first time, an Iranian official has said his country wants a ``total implementation'' of the UN Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire in the Iran-Iraq war. And, the official says, ``the sooner, the better.'' Iran's position was set forth in a meeting between its deputy foreign minister, Muhammad Javad Larijani, and Belgian Foreign Minister Leo Tindemans. In the past, Iran has not said it rejected the July 20 resolution, only that it wanted to make some changes in it.
During a conversation with a small group of journalists after his talks with Mr. Tindemans on Wednesday, Mr. Larijani said that Iran has abandoned the idea of changing the order of the paragraphs of Resolution 598. ``We accept the resolution as an integrated whole,'' he said. The resolution calls for an immediate cease-fire, a withdrawal of forces to recognized frontiers, UN monitoring of the truce, repatriation of prisoners, opening of peace negotaiations, and creating an investigative body to determine responsibility for the war.
Larijani, who has emerged in recent months as a prominent policymaker in his country, also passed to his Belgian host a confidential message with Iranian proposals on ways to reduce the present tension between the United States and Iran in Gulf waters. Belgian officials said they were asked to pass the message on to Washington (a point the Iranians were silent on). Belgium is one of the very few Western countries that has sent warships to the Gulf region but maintains full diplomatic ties with Iran.
European diplomats were puzzled by Larijani's words, and wondered whether they represented a diplomatic ploy to buy time or a real change in Iran's approach.
These diplomats say other Iranian leaders continue to want the removal of Iraq's President Saddam Hussein as a precondition to opening peace negotiations. But, all during his conversations with the Belgian foreign minister and the journalists, Larijani carefully avoided saying his government wants to bring down President Hussein. Rather, he insisted, Iran ``wants its right. The aggressor should be mentioned by name and pay war reparations.''
The Iranian envoy rejected the idea set forth by several European countries that an international fund be set up for postwar reconstruction in Iran. ``We're not gathering charity,'' he said. ``The Iraqis themselves should foot the reconstruction bill.'' Belgian diplomats see this as a move to impose a heavy financial burden on Iraq and prevent it from rebuilding its own economy.
According to Larijani, ``UN Secretary-General Javier P'erez de Cu'ellar told us that our request that the investigation commission ... enter its report on the day the cease-fire is implemented fits into Resolution 598 because its first paragraph reads: a cease-fire as a first step toward a negotiated settlement. This implies that there can be more than one first step. For example, the conclusion of the investigation commission could be one of the other first steps.''
Western diplomats here expressed doubt that Mr. P'erez de Cu'ellar ever said such things to the Iranians. They believed Iran's new attitude is the result of ``its own reading of the resolution.''
Larijani concluded his conversation with the journalists by saying he knows Iraq won't agree with what he called ``Mr. [P'erez] de Cuellar's and the Iranian leadership's reading of Resolution 598.''
According to Larijani, another stumbling block is the US Navy presence in Gulf waters. This, he says, violates the fifth point of the resolution which says UN members should refrain from any action that could escalate tension in the region.