The White House warned Americans on Thursday (23 October) to avoid over-optimism about reports that Iran might release the 52 United States hostages seized almost a year ago.
GV Teheran, Iran: Iranian Prime Minister Rajai speaking to pressmen in Farsi (2 shots)
GV & SV Washington, DC: John Trattner (State Dept. spokesman) speaking to news conference in English (2 shots)
GVs Ships trapped in Shatt-Al-Arab waterway (3 shots)
GVs Damaged and sinking ships with smoke from burning oil refinery billowing behind (6 shots)
GVs Iraqi troops on quayside and ships on water (3 shots)
GV & SV Ships with bullet holes in hulls (2 shots)
GV Ships in port of Khorramshahr (2 shots)
GV Deserted dredger at Khorramshahr
TRATTNER: "The Prime Minister (Rajai) has made a statement. It's been reporter by, by I think the BBC, it's run on some other wires. As I say, it's not anything that's been communicated officially to us. We do not know precisely what he's basing himself on. I think he had something to say to the effect that he is not ready yet to explain exactly what he means. I may be misquoting him on that -- I apologise if that's the case, but there's no way for me to deny or confirm something that somebody else has said. I just don't think that we're in that position at this juncture.
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Background: The White House warned Americans on Thursday (23 October) to avoid over-optimism about reports that Iran might release the 52 United States hostages seized almost a year ago. But a State Department spokesman noted that Iran's Parliament was due on Sunday (26 October) to begin a debate on the terms for their release. On Thursday (23 October), the United Nations Security Council met to debate the war between Iran and Iraq, while the Iraqi High Command claimed to have, at last, captured the Iranian trading port of Khorramshahr.
SYNOPSIS: In Teheran on Wednesday (22 October), Iranian Prime Minister Ali Rajai, having just returned from a visit to United Nations Headquarters, said he was sure the United States was ready to meet conditions for the release of the hostages laid down by Ayatollah Khomeini. But, in Washington, State Department spokesman John Trattner tried to dampen speculation, saying the contents and timing of Iran's final terms remained unknown.
Mr. Rajai had referred to a statement last week by U.S. Secretary of State, Edmund Muske that, if the hostages were released, American economic sanctions blocking the supply of military spare parts to Iran would be dropped. Mr. Rajai contended the issue of spare parts was not linked to the hostages. But, with Iraq claiming further successes in air and naval engagements around the Shatt-Al-Arab waterway, there's been growing speculation about an American arms deal with Iran. On the waterway itself, a large number of foreign ships trapped by the fighting were waiting for a chance to escape into the Gulf. Iraq has rejected a proposal by U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim to said out the vessels under the United Nations flag.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry has said that vessels attempting to leave were being towed into the Iraqi port of Basra. But on Friday (24 October), the Under Secretary of the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, Ahmed Hussein, announced that ships would be allowed to reach the Gulf if they flew the Red Cross flag. This concession, he said, would be granted only on condition it did not affect Iraqi sovereignty over the Shatt-Al-Arab.
The waters have not been dredged since the fighting began four weeks ago. So, it might have become impossible for many vessels to sail down the waterway to the Gulf even if Iraq's conditions were accepted.