WASHINGTON — The Reagan Administration on Thursday dropped its demand that Iran accept a cease-fire in its war with Iraq by today or face U.N. sanctions, saying it is willing to wait until U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar returns from a proposed visit to Tehran next week.
At the State Department, spokesman Charles Redman said that Iran's formal invitation to Perez de Cuellar, which is expected to be accepted by the U.N. Security Council, poses some possibility that the confrontation can be resolved with diplomacy.
However, Vernon A. Walters, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, warned that "if the secretary general returns from Tehran empty-handed, we will not hold off any longer."
Before Iran extended the invitation in a letter to Perez de Cuellar on Wednesday, the United States had declared that it would call on the United Nations to impose a global arms embargo against Iran unless Tehran signaled its acceptance by today of a Security Council cease-fire resolution passed July 20.
Iraq has agreed to halt its attacks in the seven-year-old war, but Iran has criticized the resolution and refused to give a direct response. While Iran has delayed, Iraq recently resumed attacks on Iranian oil installations and tankers, prompting Iranian retaliation against Persian Gulf shipping.
Redman said U.S. officials hope that the visit, tentatively scheduled for Sept. 10, will prove to be more than the "Iranians continuing their delaying tactics."
"Our hope is, of course, that this visit will prove to be something other than that and will result in the implementation of this resolution, which is what we've been seeking from the start."
Representatives of all 15 member nations of the Security Council are scheduled to discuss the visit today and work out ground rules.
U.N. officials said they will insist that Iran pledge beforehand to limit the talks with Perez de Cuellar to the cease-fire proposal. Iran, however, has initially balked at that restriction.
'There Are Other Issues'
"All aspects of the war must be discussed. There are other issues than the resolution," Amir Zamani, spokesman for Iran's U.N. mission, told the Associated Press.
But another Iranian official, Charge d'Affaires Mohammed Javad Zarif, said that he sees no obstacles to a visit. In extending the invitation, "we have provided a positive response enabling him to carry other fruitful discussions. . . .," he said.
In criticizing the U.N. resolution, Iran has charged that it is part of a campaign to promote U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf and that the Security Council has failed to brand Iraq as the aggressor in the war.
Redman denied that Washington's willingness to postpone its demand for U.N. sanctions stems from recent statements by the Soviet Union urging that more time be allowed for diplomacy.
Exploring All Options
He said that the United States is merely trying to explore any realistic option toward obtaining a cease-fire. "We're working for the adoption, an adherence to that resolution by both parties. That has been, that remains our goal. . . . That would be the goal of the secretary general's mission."