Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, interviewed Wednesday at the Fifth Avenue residence of the Iran's UN ambassador, made these comments on key issues relating to a Gulf cease-fire and American hostages in Lebanon:
Obstacles to a cease-fire: Iran's position now, Dr. Velayati confirmed, was that a cease-fire should come before anything else, ``as it is in the [UN] resolution.''
The minister complained of Iraqi ``sabotage'' inside Iran. The dissident National Liberation Army, now fighting Iran inside its borders, is ``the responsibility of the Iraqi government.'' Iraq is supporting that group with money, arms, and ammunition, he said, and can't pretend that the NLA is an Iranian domestic problem. Velayati hinted that Iran could turn the tables with anti-Iraq dissident groups.
As to the issue of borders, the minister said that ``there is no legal pretext for violation of the 1975 Algiers agreement,'' which settled the question of access to the Shatt al Arab waterway. Velayati said Iran reaffirmed its adherence to that agreement to the UN Security Council after the war began in 1980.
``The head of Saddam Hussein,'' or even the removal of Iraqi President Hussein, was never one of the conditions that Iran announced for ending the war, he asserted.
Talks with the United States: Dr. Velayati said that he doesn't have a mandate to begin such talks. Before relations can be resumed, the US should decrease its hostility, and reevaluate both the Islamic Revolution and Iran. He said charges that Iran intends to export its revolution are the result of misunderstandings. Iran doesn't want to do it ``with a gun,'' he said. ``You in America want all the people in the world to think like you.... So it's not strange if we want our thoughts exported to other places in the world.''
The Western hostages: In the past, Velayati said, Iran has shown that if it could do something, it would. But, he said, when the United States asked Iran for help, Iran could not ignore some difficulties that the US has created with Iran following the Iranian Revolution.
[The US administration has rejected the suggestion of Iran's parliamentary Speaker Hashemi Rafsanjani that Iran would assist in the release of US hostages in Lebanon if the US freed up frozen Iranian assets.]
Iran's ambitions in the Gulf: Iran's interest in regional cooperation for security of the Gulf is unchanged from the time of the shah. ``Since the beginning of this century, under the former regime and the present regime, all the time, we tried to have close cooperation'' with the other Gulf countries.
Why Iran accepted Resolution 598: ``When we saw that the only pretext Iraq had was [Iran's ambiguous position on Resolution 598], we accepted that resolution to remove that pretext,'' Velayati said. The Iranian foreign minister was in New York for the Security Council debate on the US downing of Iran Air Flight 655, and returned to Tehran and ``transmitted the atmosphere here in the UN to my country.''
The decision to accept Resolution 598 followed a weekend of consultations among the Iranian leadership. That, he said, plus the escalation of the war and the killing of innocent people are the main reasons for the decision. Under the Iranian Constitution, the declaration of peace and war is the right of Ayatollah Khomeini. Asked if it had been a choice of continuing the war or preserving the revolution, Velayati said: ``We want to have our national security and preserve our revolution - and having these two together is a very sensitive and delicate job.''