Talks here aimed at ending the Gulf war are proceeding smoothly - but only one side is talking. Iraq has refused since last week to participate in arranging a cease-fire until Iran agrees to direct talks. Iran refuses to agree to direct talks until a cease-fire and other steps are implemented.
UN Secretary-General Javier P'erez de Cu'ellar, who is trying to bridge the gap, has met repeatedly with Iran and was expected to do so again Monday. But he has only received a ``courtesy call'' from Iraq's foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, who has nevertheless remained in New York.
The UN released yesterday its long-anticipated report on chemical weapons. It found that Iraq is continuing to use mustard and nerve gas.
The report by a team of UN experts is less clear about the case of nine Iraqi soldiers injured in two areas in Iraq. They were affected by mustard gas, the report states, but it was not possible to confirm Iraqi charges that Iran had attacked using chemical mortar grenades.
The Security Council in May had adopted a resolution specifically condemning the use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq conflict. And the Secretary-General said that this made the new incidents particularly disturbing.
UN talks with Iran's foreign minister, Ali Akbar Velayati, UN aides say, have touched on all the substantive matters relating to UN Security Council Resolution 598. The resolution calls for a cease-fire and a negotiated end to all hostilities between Iran and Iraq.
The discussions have reportedly dealt with the specific dates on which the plan's provisions are to take effect, as well as all the technicalities involved. This would include the composition and mandate of the various inquiry committees called for by the UN peace plan.
Mr. Velayati said late last week that Iran would be willing to consider direct talks at an appropriate level after the first steps in the UN plan have been met: a cease-fire and an exchange of prisoners, for example.
This offer represents a softening of Iran's position. Previously, it had indicated that it would talk to Iraq only after Iraq had made reparations for the war.
So far, Iraq has not responded to the Iranian counterproposal.
Diplomats report that pressure is building up on the Secretary-General to impose a cease-fire. Normally this responsibility lies only with the Security Council, which has taken such action in the 1956, '67, and '73 Arab-Israeli conflicts. But now, under his mandate from Resolution 598, the secretary-general also has this power.
The UN team which went to Tehran and Baghdad to talk about technical cease-fire details is scheduled to report back Tuesday or Wednesday. The team reportedly held discussions in both capitals.
UN sources say that their efforts to move the negotiations forward are complex, and that they have received offers of help from many quarters. But, they say, the secretary-general won't ``shoot his bullet until he knows he'll hit his target - or unless he knows he has another bullet.''