IT is no small achievement that the year-old UN-sponsored cease-fire between Iran and Iraq is holding, Secretary-General Javier P'erez de Cu'ellar said in a statement marking its Aug. 20 anniversary. But while countless lives have been spared and tension has been reduced, he cautioned, there is no reason for complacency. Some 15 direct meetings, the last in April, between the foreign ministers of Iran and Iraq have failed to yield any progress on the implementation of the UN peace plan contained in Security Council Resolution 598. Mr. P'erez de Cu'ellar has again appealed to the leaders of both countries to join him in a renewed effort to achieve an overall political settlement, saying that lasting peace can be established only on the basis of no victor, no vanquished.
No new contacts are scheduled, but the UN chief plans to see both sides during the nonaligned summit meeting in Belgrade in early September.
The first steps demanded by the UN resolution are a cease-fire followed by withdrawal without delay. But Iraq raised the issues of Iran's right to stop and search ships for belligerent cargo and reasserted its claim to sovereignty over the entire Shatt al Arab waterway.
Last October, to overcome these difficulties, which had stalled progress in the ministerial talks, the secretary-general came up with a four-point plan: withdrawal of troops and verification according to maps on file with the United Nations, freedom of navigation in accordance with international law, the clearing of the Shatt al Arab waterway, and the beginning of negotiations of other outstanding issues.
Iraqi negotiators say that they have neither accepted nor rejected the four-point proposal - in deadpan parody of Iran's deliberately ambiguous position on the UN resolution, before its official declaration of acceptance a month prior to last year's cease-fire.
The cease-fire is the only part of the resolution to be implemented so far - and both sides have complained about violations.
Iraq, which continues to hold a strip of Iranian territory running all along the border, maintains that all provisions of the resolution not yet implemented should be the subject of negotiations.
Iraq makes one exception - repatriation of prisoners of war, which it says should proceed unconditionally.
The Iranians feel that by this Iraq is trying to redraft and reinterpret the resolution itself - a charge previously leveled at Iran.
The Iranians also argue that Iraq is trying to renegotiate the cease-fire by demanding that it include cleaning of the Shatt al Arab. Iran has accepted the four-point plan.
[According to Reuters, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein says he has demobilized more than 200,000 soldiers since the UN-arranged cease-fire, but diplomats say the armed forces remain ready for battle.
[Iraqi leaders were upset by Iran's economic and arms agreement in June with the Soviet Union, one of Baghdad's biggest military suppliers during the war.
[Iraq, pushing ahead with its own arms industry, staged a military fair in April which impressed Western defense experts.]