Europe set to move
against Iran terror

The Guardian, London daily

April 7, 1997

RETALIATORY measures that could include a European Union arms embargo on Iran and the expulsion of Iranian intelligence officers from EU capitals are being planned in the expectation that a German court will this week blame the Tehran government for ordering the murder of three dissidents.

Senior EU officials meet in Brussels today to plan the action to be taken.

Hawks, led by Britain and the Scandinavian countries, are pushing the Dutch presidency of the EU to take concerted action.

German prosecutors blame Iran for the gangland-style assassinations of three Iranian Kurdish dissidents and their translator in 1992 while dining in Berlin's Mykonos restaurant.

The marathon trial of four Lebanese and one Iranian is due to end on Thursday, with governments all over Europe braced for public exposure of Iran's official role - and for retaliation by Tehran.

Germany is expected to move against officers of Iran's ministry of intelligence services (MOIS) in Bonn and Frankfurt, although the scale of expulsions depends on domestic public opinion rather than the views of allies.

Despite differing national agendas and strong trade interests among EU countries at today's Brussels meeting, there are hopes for a real blow to Iranian intelligence activities across Europe.

On the commercial side, few EU countries sell weapons or dual-use technology to Tehran, but a formal ban would send a disapproving signal that Iran could not ignore and the United States would welcome.

The US and Britain have been pressing Germany to sever the intimately close and controversial relationship between its and Iran's intelligence services, but it is unlikely that Chancellor Helmut Kohl will agree.

"We would love to see an end to it but the Germans will do all they can to maintain it," said a Whitehall source. "Kohl attaches a lot of importance to it . . . and feels he shouldn't be pushed around by the Americans or some junior judge."

British officials see the Mykonos trial as "a fantastic opportunity" to end Iran's use of Europe as a springboard for subversion, defence procurement and terrorism. Like the CIA, Britain's secret intelligence service MI6 does not trust its German counterparts with evidence of Iranian "smoking guns".

Britain takes a hard line on Iran because of the death threat to Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie, as well as because of its support for Islamic fundamentalists opposed to the Arab-Israeli peace process and Tehran's attempts to acquire nuclear and chemical weapons.

It is also hoping that France, with a burgeoning commercial interest in Iran, will expel MOIS personnel based at Iran's Paris embassy. Britain expelled an Iranian intelligence officer from the London embassy in 1994 after he distributed forged documents about Bosnia.

Germany, Iran's biggest trading partner, justifies its clandestine relationship with Tehran on the grounds that it serves as a useful channel for discreet mediation in the Middle East, including contacts between Israel and Lebanese groups like such as Hizbullah.

Officials say much depends on how the Berlin court acts - and how Iran responds. Last year protesters marched on the German embassy in Tehran and called for the death of state prosecutor Bruno Jost after he accused Iran of ordering the assassinations.

Prosecutors have also issued an arrest warrant for Tehran's intelligence minister, Ali Fallahiyan, in connection with the killings - a move which also provoked fury in Iran.

Bernd Schmidbauer, the minister in charge of Germany's intelligence community, was gravely embarrassed by this.

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