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Chirac Denies He Wanted Delay of Hostage Release

August 3, 1987

PARIS (AP) _ Premier Jacques Chirac has denied charges that his representatives asked Iran to wait until his center-right coalition won power to free French hostages in Lebanon.

There have been several reports in French newspapers alleging that, while Chirac was a candidate, emissaries acting on his behalf suggested to Iranian authorities that they could get a better deal by not releasing French hostages before the March 1986 election. Chirac’s coalition won the election.

Last week, an Iranian newspaper quoted Parliament Speaker Hashemi Rafsanjani as making a similar allegation.

″This is the third or fourth time that this accusation has been made,″ Chirac said in a television interview Sunday. ″Of course I deny such insinuations categorically and I challenge anyone to present the slightest beginning of a shadow of proof, because it’s absurd.″

The premier said that if his Socialist opponents continue to bring up the charges, he would reveal details of scandals that took place while the Socialists were in power, including the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior in 1985.

The sinking of the Greenpeace ship in New Zealand in 1985 by French secret agents embarrassed the Socialist government, but it has never been made clear who ordered the sinking.

After Chirac took power, he attempted to improve ties with Iran, a process that stalled this year. France broke off diplomatic relations on July 17 after Iran refused to turn over an embassy employee wanted by French authorities for questioning in connection with bombings in Paris last year.

Iran also accused a French diplomat in Tehran of spying. Both countries have surrounded the other’s embassy, and France has sent a naval squadron toward the Persian Gulf.

Chirac has said the freeing of five French hostages held by pro-Iranian captors in Lebanon was a result of his policy of trying to normalize relations. Six other Frenchmen are still missing, however, and believed kidnapped by pro-Iranian organizations.

The six Frenchmen are among 25 foreigners missing and feared kidnapped in Lebanon. The captives include nine Americans. The longest-held hostage is Terry Anderson, the chief Middle East correspondent for The Associated Press, who was seized in March 1985.

Chirac said in the interview Sunday that the squadron headed to the gulf was intended as a deterrant to Iranian attacks, but that France would strike back promptly if Iran attacked French interests.

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