The bearded young Iranian charge d'affaires sat relaxed in a velvet chair in his spacious office. ''Unfortunately, every time America has a loss in the region, it blames Iran.
''It used to blame everything on the Soviet Union. But since the Islamic revolution, it says everything bad is from Iran,'' Majid Kamal explained.
''We strongly reject these charges of involvement'' in the bombing of the United States Marine and French contingents of the multinational peacekeeping force in Beirut. The charges were first announced by Defense Secretary Caspar Weinburger.
''Some of this is a joke,'' the Iranian diplomat said, getting angry about reports that his embassy was the center for planning the massive blasts that have so far claimed more than 260 American and French lives.
''They are all lying. We don't know anything about this,'' Mr. Kamal said firmly. ''This is just part of a satanic plan'' to allow an excuse to retaliate against Iran because the US ''is afraid after our statements about shutting the Strait of Hormuz (oil route) and afraid of a victory by the Islamic Army against Iraq in the new offensive (in the Gulf war).''
Less than five miles down the road, US Vice-President George Bush, dressed in a flak jacket and helmet, was touring the wreckage of the former Marine battalion headquarters. Deeply moved by the grueling round-the-clock rescue operation, he said:
''I hadn't expected this much destruction. You heard it. You read it. But until you see it, see the size of those reinforcing steel bars, and then I guess the horror, just the cowardly horror of what happened.''