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Iraq, Iran Signal They May Honor Gulf Truce : But Tehran Complains Resolution Is Unjust; Diplomats Foresee Short-Term Halt in Fighting

July 22, 1987|CHARLES P. WALLACE | Times Staff Writer

KUWAIT — Iraq indicated Tuesday that it will honor a cease-fire demanded by the U.N. Security Council while Iran, its enemy in the almost seven-year-old Persian Gulf War, called the resolution unjust but hinted that it would observe a truce.

Western diplomats in the region said that despite Iran's stated unwillingness to accept the cease-fire call openly, it appeared likely that a short-term halt to the fighting would now take place in the gulf.

The diplomats said that U.S. warships escorting Kuwaiti oil tankers, which have been re-registered as American vessels, would probably not be harassed or attacked by Iran in the wake of the Security Council resolution.

In an unusual display of international unanimity, the Security Council on Monday adopted a 10-point resolution on the war, including a demand for an immediate cease-fire and a withdrawal to internationally recognized boundaries. The resolution also held out the possibility of sanctions against any party that fails to observe its terms.

An Iraqi government spokesman was quoted by the official press agency as saying that "our primary impression regarding the text of the resolution is positive."

The spokesman said a detailed reply would be given by the government after an emergency meeting of Iraq's National Assembly, which was called by President Saddam Hussein.

In London, Iraq's ambassador to Britain said his country would honor the resolution only if Iran agreed to cease fighting.

"It is possible for one to make war but for peace it takes two parties to cooperate," Ambassador Abdul Amir Anbari said. "If Iran refuses to withdraw, that means Iran would refuse to abide by the resolution."

An Iranian Foreign Ministry statement released in Tehran said the Security Council resolution is unjust and has been voided by the "increased aggressive presence" of American forces in the Persian Gulf.

The statement said Iran's policy toward the war will not change as a result of the adoption of the resolution. Iran has demanded the overthrow of Hussein and payment of reparations as its conditions for ending the war.

The ambiguity of Iran's response was reflected, too, in a press conference given by Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, Said Rajaie Khorassani, who boycotted Tuesday's Security Council session.

"My government neither rejects nor accepts the resolution," Khorassani said, adding, "I am not optimistic as regard to my government's position toward the resolution. In fact, I have every reasons to be pessimistic."

Iran's charge d'affaires in Britain, Mohammed Akundzadeh Basti, described the resolution as unjust because it failed to identify Iraq as the party that started the war.

"We call this unjust because it is biased," Basti said on British television. "We made it clear that the aggressor has got to be introduced to the world community and we are wondering why the U.N. do not take this very simple step."

Tehran has rejected previous U.N. resolutions on the war as biased towards Iraq because they have not identified Iraq as the aggressor. Iraq started the war in September, 1980, by invading Iranian territory. Tuesday's resolution calls for the U.N. secretary general to explore how to set up an impartial body to decide which side started the war.

However, Tehran radio hinted in a commentary Tuesday night that as long as Iraq refrains from air attacks on Iranian shipping, Iran will also abide by a de facto truce.

"Iran once again deliberately announces that in any case of continuation of Iraqi fire-kindling in the Persian Gulf, flags of any country will not be the criterion of consideration" for Iranian response, the radio commentary stated. The use of "in any case of Iraq fire-kindling" suggests that Iran would only react to hostile acts by the Baghdad regime.

In addition to rejecting a truce, Iran has in the past refused to withdraw from a salient of Iraqi territory that it occupies around the disused oil port city of Al Faw. The Security Council resolution orders both sides to hand back captured territory, but currently only Iran holds any enemy land.

Despite the Iranian refusal to publicly accept the cease-fire order, diplomats said it appeared likely that a truce of at least two months' duration would begin immediately. According to the diplomats, the factors pointing to a short-term cease-fire rather than a settlement of the conflict are as follows:

--Despite almost daily--and unverifiable--reports from both sides claiming new attacks and high numbers of casualties inflicted on the other, there is no significant ground fighting taking place in the war at this time because of the sauna-like heat that hampers both men and mechanized weaponry.

--In accepting the cease-fire, Iraq will be obliged to suspend its air attacks on Iranian shipping in the gulf.

--Iran's policy of retaliating against shipping bound for or from Kuwait only after Iraqi raids suggests a de facto suspension of its attacks if Iraq stops the tanker war.

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