Iran's foreign minister and the United States Vice-President today will present to the UN Security Council their countries' cases over the US downing of an Iranian passenger jet. In preliminary maneuvering at the UN, diplomats on both sides have taken a low-key, almost conciliatory approach.
Members of the Council appear interested in cultivating Iran's new willingness to test the tools of diplomacy. Because Iran has considered the Council biased on the Iran-Iraq war, Iran has boycotted its meetings on Gulf matters since October 1980.
Iran has said that the Council must treat the airplane tragedy as an issue independent of the war, and has called on it to condemn the US and to demand the withdrawal of US naval forces from the Gulf. This approach, diplomats say, would certainly be met with a US veto.
But Iranian diplomats at the UN also say they are working with Brazil's ambassador, the current Security Council president, and with several other council members, to try and to find what might be acceptable to the US.
``We can accept anything that leads to peace and stability in the Persian Gulf,'' an Iranian spokesman said.
Diplomats report that the Iranians are hinting that if all goes well, and they are able to claim a diplomatic victory, they may restore contacts with the Council on a number of issues, including negotiating an end to the war.
Iran has not clearly accepted Resolution 598, adopted nearly a year ago, which demands a cease-fire and a negotiated end to all hostilites between Iran and Iraq. But UN Secretary-General Javier P'erez de Cu'ellar, who last year visited both countries' capitals, is reportedly ready to move ahead again quickly with a detailed peace plan.
The US ambassador to the UN, Gen. Vernon Walters, actively participated in the preliminary Council consultations.
After one session, General Walters commented that the US ``can accept a lot, and refuse very little - but this very little is very important.''
He also observed, referring to the July 3 jet incident, that ``It's a tragedy, but perhaps something bigger can come out of it: a renewal of the desire to end the war.''