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Iran hangs tough in face of `Western plan' to isolate regime

The break in diplomatic relations between France and Iran is described in Tehran as yet another stage in a plan hatched by the United States and its allies, Britain and France, to isolate Iran and justify direct US military intervention in the Gulf. The implementation of that plan, Iranian leaders contend, began in June when British police briefly detained an Iranian consular officer for alleged shoplifting. The ensuing diplomatic row cut relations between Britain and Iran to one diplomat each.

France broke ties with Iran on Friday after an 18-day crisis during which Iran refused to allow an embassy translator to submit to questioning by French police about bombings in Paris last September.

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The plan, according to Iranian leaders, will culminate this week with a vote by the UN Security Council on what is, to them, an inequitable resolution on the Iran-Iraq war, and with the entry into the Gulf of the first reflagged Kuwaiti tankers under the protection of the US Navy.

``We announced a few weeks ago that we will be adamant on this Gulf issue,'' said an Iranian official contacted in Tehran over the weekend. ``These days we have been dealing with France and Britain with similar intransigency, because we can't separate the Gulf issue from our relations with Britain and France, which, in this affair, act as US proxies.''

Iranian exiles contend that Iran's renewed intransigency in dealing with the West is the result of an acute domestic feud between pragmatists and hardliners. In recent weeks, exiles claim, radicals opposed to contact with the West have regained control of Iran's foreign policy, partially as a result of the US-Iran arms deals.

European diplomats in Tehran give a similar explanation for the toughness of Iranian leaders.

``I know of diplomats within the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs who disapprove of the present policy,'' says one ambassador. ``But they are lying low at the moment, harboring the secret hope that their country's present intransigent policy will lead to a diplomatic and military disaster that may allow them to return to the control levers.''

This is vehemently denied by Iranian diplomats, who contend their country's entire political elite backs the government's current inflexible attitude. ``The Iran-contra affair triggered a large debate among us,'' says an Iranian diplomat contacted in Bonn. ``We now have the impression that for a few Hawks and TOW missiles we were on the verge of selling off the spirit of our revolution.''

``The merit of this affair,'' he adds, is that it reminded us that our main enemies are US imperialism and its allies, Britain and France. We want to destroy the Iraqi regime. But the price for victory can't be a rapprochement with the US.''

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The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also contends that, since the present crisis in French-Iranian relations broke out in early July, it has been the victim of internal dissension between France's Interior Ministry and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In a July 2 press conference, Iran's charge d'affaires in Paris, Gholam Reza Haddadi, said a French diplomat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had assured him that Wahid Gordji, the embassy translator, could stay inside the embassy building. The French government vehemently denies this. Yesterday, negotiations began between France and Iran over evacuation of embassy staffs, but Mr. Gordji, who does not have diplomatic immunity, is not included, according to French officials.

An Iranian official in Tehran previously assigned to Iran's Paris Embassy contends that prominent leaders of the Rally for the Republic, the party led by French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac, torpedoed the French-Iranian dialogue initiated in May 1986 to improve relations between the two countries. The rapprochement culminated in June 1986, when a leading opponent of the Iranian regime, Massoud Rajavi, head of the People's Mojahedin, had to leave Paris and settle in Iraq. In the months that followed, four French citizens held hostage in Lebanon were set free.

But the Iranian press resumed its attacks against French policy early this year when it became clear that France, a major weapons supplier of Iraq, was not going to withdraw its support from the Iraqi regime. After the April arrest in Paris of a group of suspected Islamic terrorists, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs early last month warned all French citizens except diplomats and their families to leave Iran.

Claude van England writes on Iran from his base in Brussels.

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