Iran's president-elect was leader of movement behind 1979 hostage crisis - White House    Thu. 28 Jul 2005



WASHINGTON - The United States has concluded that Iran's president-elect was a leader of the movement behind the 1979 hostage crisis at the US embassy in Tehran but is unsure whether he took part, the White House said Thursday.

"In terms of the president, we've looked into the allegations that were made about his involvement in the 1979 hostage crisis. We know he was a leader of the student movement that organized the attack on the embassy and the taking of American hostages," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

"However, we are still looking into whether or not he was actually one of the hostage-takers. That's something we continue to look into," the spokesman said.

McClellan added: "I don't think it's a surprise to anyone, given the nature of the regime in Iran, that he might have been involved in this kind of activity."

On November 4, 1979, following Iran's Islamic revolution, a group of radical student followers of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini stormed the US embassy in Tehran and held 52 of its staff hostage for 444 days.

The White House and the US State Department said almost exactly one month ago that they were looking into allegations from five survivors of the siege that Ahmadinejad, a religious hardliner, was an active participant.

Iranian veterans of the standoff have flatly denied that Ahmadinejad was involved.

Ahmadinejad trounced moderate cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in the second round run-off of last month's presidential vote to record the greatest upset in Iranian political history. Washington deemed the elections illegitimate.

The hostage crisis led to the suspension of diplomatic ties between Washington and Tehran, which remain severed to this day. Ahmadinejad has dampened any hopes of a resumption of links, saying Iran "does not need" the United States.

McClellan also renewed a US warning to Tehran against pursuing nuclear military programs.

"Iran made some commitments to suspend their uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities. We expect them to abide by that commitment," McClellan said.

"If they were to begin those activities again, they would be violating the commitment they made under the Paris agreement with the Europeans. And we have made it very clear that Iran has a history of hiding their nuclear activities from the international community.

"That's why it's so important that you have some confidence-building measures or objective guarantees in place, so that they show the international community that their nuclear program is not being used to develop weapons," he said.

McClellan added:"If Iran is going to violate their agreements, then we would obviously be looking at discussing with the Europeans, who have also committed to doing so, looking at going to the (UN) Security Council."