Iranian View of Talking With U.S. : There Are New Realities, but the Door Is Not Open Yet

November 14, 1986|FEREYDON PEZESHKAN | Fereydon Pezeshkan is a journalist in Tehran. His report is from South-North News Service.

TEHRAN — Iranian leaders laid down four conditions for restoring normal relations with the United States during their secret meetings here with a representative of President Reagan.

Robert C. McFarlane, Reagan's former national-security adviser, came here secretly in July. Details of McFarlane's visit were revealed by Hojatolislam Hashemi Rafsanjani, Speaker of Parliament, after rumors about it had begun to circulate.

Iranian government sources said that the conditions spelled out to McFarlane were:

- Delivery of spare parts for U.S.-made weapons paid for by Iran but impounded by the United States when relations were severed in 1979.

- Release of members of the Islamic Jihad who are being held in Kuwait, and release of Lebanese held in Israel and in France (Islamic Jihad is the underground group that is holding two Americans hostage in Lebanon).

- Payment of all claims by Iran against the United States, France, Israel, Egypt and South Africa, for loans and advances made under the rule of the shah.

- Halting of Western military aid to Iraq, with which Iran is at war.

McFarlane was quoted as saying that the United States could act only on the first condition; the others "were out of reach," since they involved other nations.

According to Rafsanjani's account, McFarlane and four companions arrived in the guise of crewmen on a plane from Dublin carrying spare parts for Iranian weapons. The five men were said to be carrying Irish passports.

An Iranian government source said that McFarlane asked to see the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in order to give Iran's supreme leader an oral message from Reagan.

Iran's leaders debated for 3 1/2 hours without being able to agree on whether to open official negotiations with McFarlane, the source said. The issue was put to Khomeini, who vetoed any formal negotiation with the American.

The reason the Iranians would not negotiate with McFarlane, the source said, was that the American was known to no longer hold office in the Reagan government and did not bring any document defining his mission. McFarlane was reported to have brought only a Bible bearing Reagan's signature, a cake in the shape of a key, and a Colt revolver.

McFarlane was reported to have reacted angrily to Khomeini's refusal to see him. He was quoted as saying:

"If I were to go to the Soviet Union to buy furs, Mr. Gorbachev (Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet leader) would come to my hotel three times a day to see me. Why don't you people want to see a representative of the President of the United States? I came here to solve your problem."

Despite the lack of formal talks, during their five-day stay the Americans heard the views of Iran's leaders in unofficial discussions. During that time the Americans also were said to have communicated with their superiors in the United States.

Speaker Rafsanjani, the second man in Iran after Khomeini, described the McFarlane mission in a speech Nov. 4 marking the anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in 1979, the event that led to the break in relations between the two nations. A high-level source in the government gave this assessment:

"Mr. McFarlane's visit points to a few facts, such as: The United States is willing to establish direct relations with Iran, and such relations are so valuable to the United States that there is readiness to endanger the President's credibility for it.

"Iranian leaders have toned down their totally negative and hostile approach to the United States, and a group of Iranian leaders have concluded that Iran-United States relations are negotiable.

"At the present time public opinion is willing to accept contacts with the United States under certain circumstances, even while the 'Death to the U.S.' slogans continue to be chanted.

"Most important, the fanatical groups opposed to any political contacts with the East and West blocs have grown weaker, and the communists who constituted one of the main obstacles to expanding relations of Iran with the West no longer have any power."

The same source concluded: "In view of these realities, as Mr. Rafsanjani has said, resumption of relations between Iran and the United States is not impossible. It seems, however, that more time is needed to prepare the ground for it and persuade the United States to accept Iran's conditions. It is not possible to say that Mr. McFarlane's visit is the prelude to the resumption of diplomatic relations."

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