Iraq Wednesday proposed direct talks with Iran "as soon as possible" to set up a cease-fire in their nearly 8-year-old war.

Iraq's deputy foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, made the proposal in a message to Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar. The Iraqi mission gave a copy of the letter to The Associated Press.According to the letter, the talks would begin at the United Nations and then would be held in Baghdad and Tehran. Iraq also proposed these steps "toward reaching a comprehensive and lasting peace" - the withdrawal to internationally recognized borders, exchange of prisoners of war, establishment of a neutral body to judge the responsibility for the conflict, and a comprehensive peace agreement and reconstruction of war damage.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini said Wednesday that accepting the resolution was "worse than drinking poison," but that Iran's political leaders recommended it be done.

He said the decision was not a tactic to allow Iran to regroup its forces, but it should not be viewed as an end to the conflict, either. Khomeini warned Iranians, in a message broadcast on Tehran Radio and monitored in Athens, to "remain alert (because) the enemy has not stopped his mischief."

Tuesday night, the Security Council called on Iran and Iraq to exercise restraint to facilitate the efforts of the secretary-general toward the implementation of Resolution 598. That resolution calling for a cease-fire was adopted one year ago.

The council members issued the call after holding private consultations on the cease-fire plan and on America's downing of an Iranian jetliner on July 3, killing 290 civilians aboard.

An Iraqi military spokesman, in a statement broadcast by Baghdad Radio, said Iraqi bombers

carried out "destructive strikes" Wednesday on two oil pumping stations near the Iranian city of Aza.

Iran said its planes bombed troop concentrations and a strategic dam in northern Iraq in retaliation for earlier Iraqi air raids.

Secretary of State George Shultz said Tuesday in Tokyo the United States is prepared to talk directly with Iran about a cease-fire, but the U.S. military will stay in the gulf until "the problem goes away."

"We remain, as we have been, prepared for direct discussions with them (Iran) about all manner of issues that concern us," Shultz said.

"We want the discussions to be on an official, authoritative basis so that we know that we are dealing with the proper government officials."

Shultz said the United States is already engaged in indirect communications with Tehran through the Swiss government and other intermediaries.

"As far as U.S. naval presence in the gulf is concerned, the increase in our presence took place in response to a problem. If the problem goes away, the ship presence will go down," Shultz said.

National security adviser Colin Powell, in California with President Reagan, told reporters in Los Angeles Tuesday it would be "premature" to speculate on how a cease-fire would affect the U.S. military presence.

"The war goes on, and it is going on today," he said. "Because of the importance of that waterway and our strategic interests in the region, I do not see us ever removing our forces from the Persian Gulf."