The U.N. secretary-general says he alone will set a deadline for halting the bloodshed in the Persian Gulf, pressuring Iraq to return to the bargaining table and end its raids on Iran.
Javier Perez de Cuellar said late Monday that he expects to set a cease-fire date once his fact-finding team returns from the warring countries this week and he has consulted with the Security Council.Iran said it would honor an immediate cease-fire in the 8-year-old war. Iraq had no immediate comment on Perez de Cuellar's statement.
Iran's announcement on July 18 that it was finally accepting a year-old U.N. cease-fire resolution came after it suffered a string of battlefield defeats, and was followed by a series of Iraqi raids into Iran.
Iraq accepted the cease-fire resolution last year but has recently been demanding face-to-face talks with Iran before a truce takes effect.
The announcement of a cease-fire date would put pressure on Iraq to compromise and drop its insistence on direct talks, which have hampered a week of U.N.-mediated negotiations between the belligerents.
After a three-hour meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, Perez de Cuellar indicated he would set a cease-fire date without Iraqi assent.
"The D-Day doesn't depend on the parties," the U.N. chief said.
Velayati and Iran's U.N. ambassador, Mohammad Ja'afar Mahallati, told reporters earlier Monday that Iran wants the secretary-general to go ahead and name the cease-fire date, with or without Iraq's agreement.
"Iran is immediately ready to implement (a U.N. peace) resolution by a cease-fire," said Mahallati.
Velayati told reporters all major issues have been covered in their meetings "and there is no substantial point (of disagreement) between us and the secretary-general."
Sadoun Hamadi, Iraqi minister of state for foreign affairs, earlier Monday repeated his country's insistence on direct talks. He made his comments during an appearance on state television in Baghdad.
The Security Council resolution provides for a cease-fire, withdrawal to recognized borders, a prisoner exchange, peace negotiations and an investigation to determine which side started the war.
Perez de Cuellar said a U.N. military team is now in Amman, Jordan, preparing its report. He said he is to receive it on Wednesday.
"I will be in touch with members of the (Security) Council, and then I will decide on a D-Day," the Peruvian said.
The secretary-general said that once a date is decided, he will begin consulting nations that could provide about 250 military observers to monitor the truce and troop withdrawal.
Perez de Cuellar on Monday held his sixth meeting with Velayati since talks began last week.
He has met three times with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, but Iraq said it was not prepared to enter into substantive talks with Perez de Cuellar until direct talks take place.
Iraq also has not responded to a U.N. report concluding that it has frequently used and continues to use chemical weapons in the war.