Iranian politicians on Sunday continued denials that president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad was among the students who stormed the US embassy during the 1979 Islamic Revolution and warned the allegations against him were intended to undermine the European Union’s talks with Tehran over its nuclear programme.
Abbas Abdi, a leader of the students who held 52 embassy staff hostage for 444 days, said on Wednesday, Mr Ahmadi-Nejad had played “no role whatsoever” in the event.
“He was not there at all, neither among the core students nor anywhere else,” he told the FT.
Mr Abdi, recently released after two years’ jail for allegedly passing information to US pollsters, said he had “no idea” what lay behind the allegations.
Mr Abdi is also among Iranians who have worked for reconciliation with America, meeting Barry Rosen, one of the hostages, in Paris in July 1998.
Tehran on Wednesday marked the 17th anniversary of the US warship Vincennes shooting down an Iran Air passenger plane, killing 291 people including 66 children. Television showed footage of wreckage, including a child’s body, floating in the sea.
The Airbus had taken off from Bandar Abbas, the southern Iranian city, en route to Dubai and was in a recognised air corridor when hit by two missiles from the Vincennes, in Persian Gulf waters to protect Iraqi and other Gulf oil tankers.
Writing in Sunday’s Tehran Times, commentator Hassan Hanizadeh asked God to “eternally curse the criminal US officials”.
Iran suspects the allegations against Mr Ahmad-Nejad are designed to put pressure on the EU as it prepares proposals on Iran’s nuclear programme to be presented around the end of the month.
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the defeated presidential candidate, warned Iran’s “enemies” had “started their work as of now” against Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s new government.
Speaking at Friday prayers in Tehran, Mr Rafsanjani called on Iran’s leaders to put aside differences from the recent election.
“There are very serious problems [facing Iran],” he said. “The country could be damaged if there is lack of coordination and awareness, and unless we avoid extreme and immature moves.”
Former hostage-takers are found across the political spectrum in Iran, including radical reformists. One, Ibrahim Asgharzadeh, was among the 1000 candidates whose exclusion from the presidential race prompted president George Bush to condemn the Iranian election.
Saeed Hajjarian, a leading reformist and former intelligence ministry official who narrowly survived an assassination five years ago, denied a report of Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s involvement in the 1989 killing in Vienna of Abdolrahman Qassemlou, general secretary of the illegal Iranian Kurdistan Democratic Party.
The accusation came from Strategic Policy Consulting, a Washington think-tank run by Alireza Jafarzadeh, a former representative of the National Council for Resistance, a front for the Mujahedin-e Khalq, the armed Iranian opposition group previously allied to Saddam Hussein.