DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar met with Iranian leaders Saturday in an effort to persuade them to accept a cease-fire in the Iran-Iraq War.
However, there was little in the scant information emerging from Tehran to indicate that Perez de Cuellar had made any progress in his first round of talks, which reportedly lasted several hours, with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati.
Iraq, meanwhile, accused Iran of violating the de facto truce in effect during Perez de Cuellar's peace mission with artillery attacks against several Iraqi cities and border towns from Sulaymaniyah in the north to Basra in southern Iraq.
"This is new proof of Iran's unwillingness to cooperate with the U.N. chief's mission," an Iraqi military spokesman asserted. "Tehran found nothing to receive (Perez de Cuellar) with but the bombardment of residential areas."
Both sides, however, continued to refrain from further attacks on international shipping in the Persian Gulf, and the U.S. Navy took advantage of the lull in the so-called tanker war to escort another convoy of reflagged Kuwaiti tankers down the 550-mile waterway.
Gulf-based shipping sources said two Kuwaiti tankers, the 81,283-ton Surf City and the 79,999-ton Chesapeake City, set sail from Kuwait along with their warship escorts hours after Perez de Cuellar's arrival in Tehran on Friday night.
The convoy, steaming southwards from Kuwait's Al Ahmadi oil-loading terminal at the northern end of the gulf, is the eighth escort mission undertaken by the U.S. Navy since the Reagan Administration agreed to re-register 11 of Kuwait's 22-vessel tanker fleet under the American flag to protect them from attacks by Iranian missiles and gunboats.
About 350 commercial vessels have been attacked by both sides in the three-year-old tanker war, initiated by Iraq in 1984 in an effort to choke off Iran's economic lifeline. While most of the attacks have been carried out by Iraq, Kuwaiti shipping has been a target of Iranian harassment because of Kuwait's substantial economic support for Iraq and its key role as a transshipment point for weapons bound for Baghdad.
A spate of shipping attacks and the proliferation of mines throughout the waterway have sharply increased tensions in the gulf since the U.S. escort shuttles began last July, prompting other nations to reinforce or initiate smaller but similar escort missions for ships flying their flags.
At the southern end of the gulf, the first Kuwaiti tanker to be re-registered as a British vessel was escorted through the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday by the British frigate Andromeda, shipping sources said.
The British convoy was shadowed by an Iranian warship, and there was a brief confrontation when the Andromeda's captain accused the Iranians of training their guns on the British warship, the sources said. However, the Iranian ship backed down, and the convoy proceeded through the strait into the Gulf of Oman without incident, they added.
In all, 75 warships from the United States, the Soviet Union and several other European nations are now either in the gulf or soon to be en route to it to escort tankers or sweep for mines.
A French minesweeping support ship and three Soviet naval vessels passed through the Suez Canal on Saturday on their way to the gulf, reports from Egypt said.
Against this growing internationalization of the gulf conflict, Perez de Cuellar's peace mission, which will also take him to Baghdad later in the week, has assumed a sense of urgency.
However, there was nothing to indicate, in the reports emanating from Tehran on Saturday, that Iran had dropped its objections to Resolution 598, the U.N. Security Council's call for a cease-fire in the seven-year-old gulf war.
Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency said that Velayati outlined Iran's reservations about Resolution 598. The resolution, passed unanimously by the council on July 20, called for a mandatory truce, the withdrawal of all forces to internationally recognized borders and an exchange of war prisoners.
Iraq has provisionally accepted the resolution, but Iran, while saying it has "positive points," has criticized its failure to condemn Iraq for starting the war.
Tehran Radio added that Velayati told Perez de Cuellar that Iran would accept a U.N. cease-fire only if "it led to justice being done,"--an apparent reference to Tehran's conditions for ending the war, which include the removal of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, international condemnation of Iraq and the payment of substantial war reparations to Iran.
Since these conditions are unacceptable to Iraq, as well as to its Arab allies in the gulf, diplomats and other regional specialists hold out little hope that Perez de Cuellar's mission can succeed.