WASHINGTON -- President Bush said yesterday he has assurances that Iran will back the United Nations' sanctions against Iraq and that concessions made to Iran by Saddam Hussein have hurt his standing with the Iraqi people.
"We have had indirect assurances from Iran that they want to see these sanctions complied with and enacted," the president said yesterday.
He added that he has yet to see any evidence that Iran is violating the sanctions.
"Until I am shown that Iran is violating the sanctions, I'm not going to buy into the argument that they've made some secret deal," he told reporters at a White House briefing yesterday.
Iran and Iraq have been normalizing ties since Mr. Hussein accepted Tehran's terms for a formal end to their 1980-1988 war, two weeks after his invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2.
President Bush commented on Iraq's concessions:
"Iran got almost everything they wanted from Iraq. This has not enhanced Saddam Hussein's standing in Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost on both sides [during the war]."
The rapprochement has led to speculation that in exchange for Iraqi oil, Iran might allow food and other essentials to cross its 750-mile frontier with Iraq in breach of the U.N. sanctions.
But in Iran yesterday, Tehran Radio said that Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmoud Vaezi stressed in a briefing with European Community ambassadors that Iran is committed to the Security Council resolution imposing the embargo.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran has See BUSH, 2A, Col. 1BUSH, from 1Aexplicitly condemned the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait," the radio quoted the minister as saying.
Iran's spiritual leader declared in a broadcast last week that Moslems who die fighting to throw Americans out of the region would be a martyrs bound for heaven.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also warned that "Moslem nations will not allow America to set up its security and defense system in the region."
But President Bush said yesterday that the ayatollah's statement actually stopped short of calling for "a holy war" against the United States.
"I'm told by some experts that he did not call for a jihad. But you've got to analyze it very carefully," Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Bush also said yesterday he was aware that his eight-minute television message to the Iraqi people got low ratings when it aired on Baghdad television Sunday night and that many Iraqis watched cartoons or attended government-sponsored rallies instead.
But he said he was glad he went on Iraqi television anyway.
"The truth is a good thing. It's a good thing to put into Iraq. They're getting very little of it now," he said.