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Khomeini Ran His Revolution From a French Village With PM-Iran-Khomeini, Bjt

June 6, 1989

Undated (AP) _ Every day after lunch, the robed, turbaned man with eyes like nuggets of coal would pick his way across a French village lane and address the faithful from the top of a flight of steps.

From the young men mustered at Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s feet would arise a shout that has since become part of the international political language:

″Allahu aqbar 3/8 Allahu aqbar 3/8 Allahu aqbar 3/8″

Then, after the last chant of those Arabic words for ″God is great,″ Khomeini would shuffle back to his little cottage, and the war against the Shah of Iran would continue.

Neauphle-le-Chateau, a village 20 miles outside Paris, seemed an unlikely place from which to orchestrate a revolution thousands of miles away.

Khomeini had moved there in September 1978 after 15 years of exile in Iraq. With unrest mounting in his kingdom, the shah wanted the Ayatollah as far away as possible, and he had persuaded his Iraqi neighbors to expel him and the French to give him asylum.

It was a mistake. Neauphle-le-Chateau meant access to international telephones and the world media, and these were to play a critical role in the revolution.

At first, only a handful of supporters gathered at Neauphle-le-Chateau - Abolhassan Bani Sadr, future president of the Islamic republic, and Sadegh Ghotbzadeh and Ibrahim Yazdi, both foreign ministers-in-waiting.

Khomeini lived with his family in the cottage while the revolutionaries set up operations across the street in a larger house. On warm days Khomeini would sit under a tree and answer questions from his followers.

Khomeini was a healthy, alert 76. His lifestyle was spartan: rough blankets to keep out the cold in the unheated cottage; an apple and a bowl of bean soup for lunch; no television.

His most compelling feature was his eyes, burning out from under glowering black eyebrows that seemed to freeze his face into a permanent frown.

His message, delivered in a calm, low monotone, never changed: the shah must be tried by Islamic judges as a mass murderer; America was corrupt, Western influence destructive; he would soon go back to Iran and set up an Islamic republic, governed by Islamic law. It was only a matter of time. It was Allah’s will.

As the uprising in Iran spread, Neauphle-le-Chateau filled up with Iranian exiles from all over Europe. They packed the little garden outside the operations cottage to overflowing.

Everything Khomeini said in his daily homily was tape recorded and played over the phone to supporters in Iran who would rerecord the speech and circulate it clandestinely.

A blue-and-white tent was set up for prayers. More phones were installed, and a tape-duplicating machine arrived, so that Khomeini’s words could reach Iran even faster.

Striking Iranian telephone operators in Iran would take calls only from Neauphle-le-Chateau.

Bearded mullahs manned the phones while Westernized Iranian intellectuals sought out reporters to tell them about the liberal, Islam-based constitutional democracy that would arise once the shah was gone.

The growing number of reporters churned the garden into mud. Like a hall of mirrors, Khomeini fed the media and the media fed Khomeini. The French weekly l’Express published a cover photo of Khomeini above the caption: ″The man who makes the world tremble.″ The next day a huge blowup of the cover hung on the cottage wall.

On Jan. 16, the shah left Iran and in Neauphle-le-Chateau plans were made for Khomeini’s homecoming.

But no airline would carry the party to Tehran for fear the plane would be shot down. So Khomeini chartered a Boeing. It had to carry extra fuel in case it was forced to return, and only half its normal passenger load was permitted.

At a table under a tree, scores of journalists and Khomeini supporters lined up in darkness and freezing rain and paid wads of cash for one-way tickets to Tehran.

It was the final seal on the surreal, often chaotic spectacle that had been unfolding in the little French village in the preceding weeks.

Bani Sadr looked elated. He would soon become president, then be brought down and forced to return to Paris, an exile again.

Ghotbzadeh told a reporter he hoped to see him again in Tehran. He would end up slain as Khomeini’s revolution devoured its own children.