U.N. military observers will travel to Iran and Iraq to work out details of a cease-fire in the nearly 8-year-old war between the Persian Gulf neighbors.
Iraq proposed direct talks, but Iran rejected the offer.Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar said Wednesday the team of 10 to 12 observers will be in the region about a week. The team is from the U.N. Truce Supervision Organization based in Jerusalem and will be joined by U.N. observers already in Tehran and Baghdad. The exact itinerary was not announced.
Lt.-Gen. Martin Vadset, head of the Jerusalem group, said Thursday he hoped to be in the area this weekend. Vadset was interviewed in Vienna by the Norwegian news agency and Norwegian radio.
"We will start from scratch, and the main issue now is to have the parties agree on the technical implementation of a truce which can form the foundation for the peace negotiations," Vadset said.
The 57-year-old Norwegian general was in Vienna to assemble a group of four UNTSO officers and two or three others from U.N. headquarters in New York for the mission, the reports said. The other members will be appointed in New York.
"I am optimistic and hope that we at long last can see the end of the conflict," Vadset said.
The first dozen or so observers eventually will be joined by up to 250 officers from various countries who would monitor cease-fire implementation.
Also Wednesday, the Security Council unanimously adopted a mild resolution expressing "deep distress" over the U.S. Navy's downing of an Iranian jetliner over the gulf on July 3, which killed all 290 people aboard.
Iran had sought condemnation.
The Pentagon said the crew of the USS Vincennes, which fired the fatal missile, mistook the Iran Air jet for an Iranian F-14 fighter.
On Monday, Iran announced after a year's delay that it had accepted Security Council Resolution 598, which demands an immediate truce and troop withdrawal and sets out a peace plan to end the war.
Iraq at first called the move a trick to buy time for a surprise attack. But on Wednesday, its deputy foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, sent Perez de Cuellar a message saying Iraq wants direct talks with Iran.
Iraq proposed opening talks at the United Nations, then moving them to Baghdad and Tehran. Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Ja'afar Mahallati told reporters Iran rejected direct talks.
But another Iranian diplomat, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said his country will observe a cease-fire during the technical team's visit and continue an informal cease-fire later if Iraq does the same.
Iraq raided Iranian industrial targets on Tuesday and Iran responded in kind on Wednesday. Thursday, Iraq shelled the village of Sardasht in northern Azerbaijan province, killing one civilian and injuring two, IRNA said.
Perez de Cuellar said the team would limit its consultations to military aspects of the cease-fire: "I expect the report of the team will allow me to announce the implementation of the resolution."