Abductors deny Iran leader siege role

Iranian veterans of the 1979 seizure of hostages at the US embassy in Tehran have denied claims that President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad played a role in the siege.

    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is accused of being a hostage-taker

    Their comments come after several former US hostages who were held for 444 days by student followers of revolutionary leader Ayat Allah Ruhollah Khomeini said they were sure Ahmadinejad was a key player in the abduction.

    "Mr Ahmadinejad was never one of students following the path of the imam that took the spy den (US embassy). He was never there," said Mohsen Mirdamadi, a former hostage-taker who went on to become a member of parliament.

    He said a picture circulating on the internet and the printed media portraying a thickly bearded hostage-taker leading out a blindfolded American hostage did not show Ahmadinejad.

    "Those who say he was one of the students are making a mistake. Even last night I was shown a picture but the person in the picture had little resemblance to him"

    Mohsen Mirdamadi, 
    former hostage-taker and MP

    "Those who say he was one of the students are making a mistake. Even last night I was shown a picture but the person in the picture had little resemblance to him.

    "I think that it is the picture which has led to the mistake. As I said he was never there. He was never among us even when we were deliberating over the issue," said Mirdamadi. 

    OCU member

    Abbas Abdi, who like Mirdamadi is regarded as one of the instigators of the embassy seizure, also denied that Ahmadinejad had anything to do with the operation.

    "I say again: No Sir, he was not one of them. What I say is very clear. If you ask me if I know somebody and I say 'no' that is all I can say." 

    Hashem Aghajari, another veteran of the siege and leading
    political dissident, said: "Ahmadinejad was a member of the OCU but as far as I know he was not involved in the US embassy [takeover]."

    Ahmadinejad was a member of
    the group that took hostages

    The Office for Consolidating Unity (OCU) is an umbrella grouping of student Islamic committees.

    The BBC's World Affairs editor John Simpson had added to the
    speculation when he wrote on the BBC's website earlier this week that he instantly recognised the new president from his role in the siege.

    "When I read a profile of him in the English-language Tehran
    Times, I realised where I must have seen him: in the former American embassy in Tehran," Simpson said. 

    Aide's statement

    Ahmadinejad's aide, Meisan Rowhani, said from Tehran that Ahmadinejad was asked during recent private meetings if he had a role in the hostage-taking. Rowhani said he replied: "No. I believed that if we do that the world will swallow us."

    "No. I believed that if we do that the world will swallow us"

    Mahmood Ahmadinejad,
    Iran President-elect

    Ahmadinejad's website makes no mention of link to the embassy siege, although it does make clear he was a founder-member of the OCU. He was not questioned about the issue in his post-election news conference.

    On 4 November 1979, in the wake of Iran's Islamic revolution, a group of Islamist students stormed the US embassy in Tehran and held 52 of its staff hostage for 444 days. 

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



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