126. Memorandum for the Record1

Under Secretary Newsom met with Swiss Political Counselor Simonin at noon on December 29. Mr. Newsom gave Mr. Simonin a message for Swiss Ambassador Lang in Tehran. Mr. Simonin in turn provided Mr. Newsom with a copy of a cable from Ambassador Lang.2

Mr. Newsom reviewed with Mr. Simonin the message for Ambassador Lang. Mr. Newsom pointed out that in regard to Ghotbzadeh’s complaint that the U.S. was not publicly responding to “positive” Iranian moves, the national mood in the U.S. is such that it is difficult for the USG to comment favorably on anything short of the release of the hostages. Mr. Newsom emphasized our need for a list of the hostages in order to straighten out the confusion about the number being held. Mr. Newsom told Mr. Simonin, for his information only, that the clergymen who visited the hostages had not been able to come up with a precise list of the 43 that they met with. Mr. Newsom underlined the importance of the point that the USG is not seeking to claim a victory over Iran or to suggest Iranian weaknesses. The U.S. media tends to see everything in terms of winners and losers, and we cannot control this. Mr. Newsom said that he realizes that our request that Ambassador Lang try to make sense of the confusion among the Iranian leaders is a tall order, but that we would very much appreciate any input that he might have.

Mr. Simonin asked if the U.S. could offer any further clarification of statements by the Panamanian President on extradition of the former Shah.3 Mr. Newsom said that in our view, President Royo is playing a risky game. Royo has made it clear to us, and presumably the former Shah, that Panama does not intend to extradite the former Shah to Iran. Royo seems to think, however, that he is playing a useful role as far as the release of the hostages is concerned by saying that Panama will carefully consider an extradition request by Iran. Royo has not wanted to imply that the former Shah will in fact be extradited if the hostages are released. General Torrijos has given us firm assurances that the former Shah will not be extradited.

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Mr. Simonin asked whether Iran could put any pressure on Panama. Mr. Newsom replied that they could possibly try to put some pressure on Panamanian-flag vessels, but that most such vessels were not owned by Panama. Mr. Simonin asked whether Ambassador Lang could be informed on the Panamanian aspects. Mr. Newsom said that it would be all right to inform Ambassador Lang for his own background information that the U.S. did not consider the extradition of the former Shah from Panama to be a possibility.

  1. Source: Department of State, Records of David D. Newsom, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Subject Files, 1978–1981, Lot 81D154, Swiss Channel. Secret. Drafted by Clement.
  2. The December 30 message for Lang is attached but not printed. The cable from Lang is not attached.
  3. See Document 109.