43. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation1


  • President Carter
  • President Zia of Bangladesh

President Carter: Good morning. How are you?

President Zia: Hello. I got your message late last night.2

President Carter: I want to express my appreciation for your support of our efforts to free the hostages, especially your Ambassador in Tehran who has worked with our Chargé there.3

Your presence on the UN Security Council is important to our efforts. Other nations will look to Bangladesh for leadership.

Iran is defying the Security Council4 and the World Court.5 We have been persistent in our efforts to use peacekeeping forums to [Page 117] present our case. The time has come to decide whether to enforce the directives issued by the World Court and the United Nations.

Secretary Vance will make a presentation today asking the UN Security Council to attempt to obtain the release of the hostages from Iran.6 Following that, if Iran does not cooperate, we ask that the Security Council take action under articles 39 and 41 of chapter VII.7

I am asking your support on this two-step procedure. Can you support us in this effort?

President Zia: Thank you for your call. I appreciate your confidence in Bangladesh. You can count on us to uphold international law and the Geneva Convention. We have just completed a Cabinet meeting here at which we spoke with your Ambassador Schneider for over two hours. He will be reporting. (Dacca 8657)8

I appreciate the patience you have shown, and believe that your plan to have Secretary Vance ask the Secretary General to approach Iran should produce results. We have requested Iran to release the hostages. You can be assured we will do our best.

President Carter: Let me respond by saying how much I appreciate your statement. We want to continue our actions through peaceful means as long as they produce results. We have a great investment in the UN. Iran presents a test case of whether UN actions are to be observed. If the Secretary General fails, then we need your support for action under articles 39 and 41. Will you cooperate with us?

(At 9:48 AM the connection was interrupted for approximately five minutes—until 9:53 AM.)

President Zia: We have talked at length with Ambassador Schneider and are committed to uphold international law and the Geneva Convention. We believe that with the latest developments, Iran will release the hostages. Your willingness to allow more time is very much appreciated.

I would like to raise two additional points. We are taking what action we can. Our Foreign Minister has sent a message to Mr. Vance.9 We will stay in close touch.

[Page 118]

President Carter: I want to say also that we have been extremely concerned about events in Afghanistan. I hope that you will join with others if you have not already done so in condemning the Soviet actions there.10

President Zia: We have received your message11 and will follow-up. I also want to thank you and the people of the US for all the help earlier this year when our agricultural production was severely affected by drought. Thanks from me and from the people of Bangladesh.

President Carter: We have had good relations with the government and the people of Bangladesh. Our assistance is a signal of how deeply interested we are in the well-being of your people. You can count on us.

The conversation ended at 9:58 AM.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P860159–1224. Confidential; Nodis. Carter spoke to Zia by telephone from the Oval Office. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary) Dodson sent the memorandum of conversation to Vance under a January 3, 1980, covering memorandum. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P860159–1223)
  2. Carter first attempted to reach Zia at 8:24 p.m., December 28. The call was not completed. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary)
  3. L. Bruce Laingen was serving as the Chargé d’Affaires in Tehran when he was taken hostage, along with more than 50 other U.S. diplomats and citizens on November 4.
  4. United Nations Security Council Resolution 457, adopted unanimously on December 4, called on Iran to immediately release the U.S. hostages. (Yearbook of the United Nations, 1979, pp. 311–312)
  5. For the text of the World Court’s December 15 ruling that the Government of Iran had violated its international legal obligation to the United States, see Department of State Bulletin, February 1980, pp. 49–53.
  6. Vance’s statement printed in the Department of State Bulletin, February 1980, pp. 67–68.
  7. Article 39 of the UN Charter declares that the Security Council is empowered to declare the existence of a threat to peace. Article 41 covers the types of measures to restore peace that the Security Council may recommend to United Nations member states.
  8. See Document 44.
  9. Telegram 332653 to Dacca, December 28, transmitted the text of Huq’s December 26 message to Vance, which referred to the efforts outside of the UN Security Council that Bangladesh had undertaken to alleviate the Iranian hostage crisis. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800003–0612)
  10. For details of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, see Document 394.
  11. Telegram 333360 to multiple posts, December 28, instructed Chiefs of Mission to deliver a message from Carter to the Head of State or Government of their host country on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, urging him or her to “speak out in the strongest terms against this violation of a sovereign, non-aligned country.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840163–1258, N800001–0554, N790010–0486) Schneider delivered the message to Zia the evening of December 29: “Zia needed no convincing of the gravity of the situation.” (Telegram 8659 from Dacca, December 29; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840171–1346, N800001–0103)