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'It's Worse Than Poison,' Khomeini Says of Truce : Prodded by Aides, He Agreed to It

July 20, 1988|Associated Press

NICOSIA, Cyprus — The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini said today that accepting a U.N. resolution calling for a cease-fire in the Iran-Iraq War was "worse than drinking poison," but that Iran's political leaders recommended it be done.

It was the first statement from the 87-year-old leader since Iran announced Monday it was accepting the resolution passed by the Security Council on July 20, 1987.

He asked Iranians to accept his decision, and said the people should be thankful that so many Iranians were martyred fighting for Islam. One million people have been killed in the 8-year-old war.

At the United Nations today, Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar announced he is sending a team to Iran and Iraq to arrange details of a cease-fire.

Iraq Proposes Talks

The announcement came after Iraq proposed direct talks with Iran "as soon as possible" to set up a cease-fire.

Khomeini said he could not detail the reasons why the country's political leaders asked him to end the war but said he decided to accept their recommendation. He did not refer to any leaders by name.

Hashemi Rafsanjani, Speaker of Iran's Parliament and commander in chief of Iran's armed forces, said Monday that Khomeini made the decision to accept the resolution.

Khomeini had previously rejected all attempts to end the war, saying Iran would continue fighting until Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was overthrown.

Khomeini, in a statement carried by Iranian media and monitored in Nicosia, said accepting the resolution does not mean the war is over.

War Problem Remains

"The approval of the U.N. resolution does not mean that the problem of the war has been solved," he said.

Khomeini said many of his country's problems could be traced to American opposition to the 1979 Islamic revolution.

He said Iran will continue to battle American influence in the region and said that foreign navies should leave the Persian Gulf "before it is too late."

Resolution 598 calls for a cease-fire in the war, a return to the international borders of 1980, an exchange of prisoners--about 60,000 are being held on both sides--and an investigation to determine who started the conflict.

Iraq's deputy foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, proposed the opening of talks with Iran in a message to Perez de Cuellar. Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Ja'afar Mahallati, asked if his country would agree to direct negotiations, replied "No, we will not accept direct talks."

Perez de Cuellar told reporters the negotiating team would leave "immediately" for the Middle East and would be there no more than one week.

Membership Limited

It will include 10 to 12 members of UNTSO, the U.N. Truce Supervision Organization, who will limit their consultations to military aspects of the cease-fire, he said.

"I expect the report of the team will allow me to announce the implementation of the resolution," he said.

He said that would include naming D-Day--when the cease-fire will go into effect, setting dates for the beginning and completion of troop withdrawals and exchanges of war prisoners, and setting a date for the beginning of negotiations on a comprehensive peace.

In a letter delivered earlier to Perez de Cuellar, Iraq proposed opening talks at the United Nations and then moving them to Baghdad and Tehran. Iraq proposed five steps "toward reaching a comprehensive and lasting peace as soon as possible."

The contents of the letter were circulated in English by the Iraqi News Agency. Perez de Cuellar said he had not read the message but would not object to Iran and Iraq holding direct meetings.

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