UNITED NATIONS — Iran's government told U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar that it would agree to a cease-fire in the seven-year-old Iran-Iraq War only if allowed to keep its troops in occupied Iraqi territory, members of the 15-nation U.N. Security Council said Wednesday.
Iraq has made it clear that such a condition would be unacceptable.
The diplomats, who spoke on condition that they not be identified, listened to Perez de Cuellar make a "rather long statement" to the council on his return from visiting the capitals of the two belligerent countries.
The secretary general, however, declined to say publicly whether Iran had accepted or rejected the council's Resolution 598 calling for a cease-fire. Asked if he had received an "unambiguous response" from Tehran with regard to the July 20 resolution, which specifies that each side should withdraw to its own territory, he replied:
"It's for the council to judge. They wanted me to consider my report as confidential."
Amir Zamani, spokesman for Iran's mission to the United Nations, said his government would be "more than glad to consider a cease-fire as an integral part of a comprehensive plan that will lead to a durable peace."
Zamani made it clear, however, that a cease-fire in place would be logical and that a comprehensive plan must include compensation for war damage and an assessment of responsibility for starting the war--which, it is generally agreed, began when Iraq invaded Iran.
The July 20 resolution skirted the issue of war guilt, proposing only the establishment of a commission to investigate the issue, a provision that Iran has denounced repeatedly as insufficient.
Although no Iraqi spokesman was available after the council's closed meeting, Baghdad was considered certain to reject any cease-fire that permits Iranian troops to remain on its territory. Iran captured the southern Iraqi peninsula of Faw and the town of Al Faw last year.
Arab diplomats friendly to Iraq said Baghdad would also refuse to accept the label of aggressor, since that would imply liability for reparations.
Although Perez de Cuellar's peace mission bore all the earmarks of failure, council members were reluctant to declare it officially dead. The United States announced in advance of the secretary general's trip that unless Iran unambiguously accepted the council's call for a cease-fire, Washington would work for another resolution imposing sanctions against the regime of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
However, the council set no date for further consultations on acting to enforce the July 20 resolution.