URGENT Exiled Guerrilla Leader, Wanted by Iran, Arrives in Iraq Precede PARIS
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ An Iranian rebel leader wanted by the Khomeini regime arrived in Baghdad Saturday after being pressured to leave France and was welcomed by high-level Iraqi officials, the state-run Iraqi News Agency said.
Massoud Rajavi, leader of the People’s Mujahedeen Resistance, had been living in exile in France, and his departure from Paris came amid stepped-up French efforts to win freedom for nine Frenchmen kidnapped in Lebanon. Iran is thought to have connections with the Islamic Jihad - or Islamic Holy War - group which claims to hold four of the hostages.
Islamic Jihad pledges loyalty to Iran’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
A major police operation had been mounted Saturday morning at the Mujahedeen headquarters outside Paris, ostensibly to check identities. French police said Rajavi and his group left the country voluntarily.
Rajavi, who has been in exile since 1981, arrived in Baghdad just before midnight (4 p.m. EDT), the Iraqi News Agency said.
French regional police said he had flown out of Paris’ Le Bourget airport in a private aircraft that also carried his wife, who is co-leader of the Mujahedeen, and four companions.
The party was met at Baghdad airport by Taha Yassin Ramadan, the Iraqi first deputy prime minister; Defense Minister Adnan Khairallah; Information and Culture Minister Lahif Nsayef Jassim and other officials, the agency said.
It was not known if Iraq was granting Rajavi asylum.
Iraq has been fighting a border war with Iran since September 1980.
Sources at the French airport had suggested Rajavi was headed for Cairo, Egypt.
Soon after Rajavi’s departure from France, Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency reported that Prime Minister Mir Hossein Moussavi gave new orders to an Iranian diplomat in Paris on ″normalization of relations″ with France.
The authoritative French newspaper Le Monde said Saturday morning’s police operation at Mujahadeen headquarters was meant as a positive signal to Iran. Within hours, Rajavi was en route to the airport in a seven-car cortege escorted by police.
Vice Premier Ali Reza Moayeri of Iran said May 22 that his country demanded the extradition of exiles ″with blood on their hands,″ which was believed to be a clear reference to Rajavi. On the same day, French Premier Jacques Chirac said his government would crack down on activities incompatible with political asylum in France.
Rajavi, 38, fled Iran on July 29, 1981, with former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr. The Mujahedeen leader orchestrated a propaganda campaign against Khomeini’s regime from a bunker-style complex in the Paris suburb of Auvers-Sur-Oise and directed a guerrilla network inside Iran.
French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua, while not commenting directly on Rajavi’s departure, said that ″when you ask for political asylum from France, you have to accept a certain number of rules.″ He said these include ″doing nothing contrary to French interests″ and ″refraining from political activities.″
The Mujahedeen was formed in the 1960s and played a major role in the 1979 revolution that toppled Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.
Rajavi, however, turned against Khomeini less than two years later.
The Mujahedeen claim to have attacked military barracks and killed many revolutionary guards and other followers of Khomeini.
Unconfirmed French reports and persistent rumors in the Iranian exile community claim the Mujahedeen, a leftist group that observes Islamic traditions, are to rebase in Jordan or Iraq.
In a two-hour-long interview last year with The Associated Press, Rajavi denied allegations he keeps a guerrilla base in Iraq or receives money from the Baghdad government.
Bani-Sadr, in a telephone interview Saturday, said of Rajavi, ″One must not depend on others. He had too many ties to foreigners ... with Iraq, and even France.
. ″He has spilled a lot of blood and lost a lot of victims and prestige. Now you see the result.″
There were no indications that Bani-Sadr or the shah’s last premier, Shapour Bakhtiar, must leave France.
″I don’t feel in the least bit threatened because I’m a man who abides by international law, French traditions and the rules which political refugees must respect,″ Bahktiar said.