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Khomeini foes fast in bid for US support. Hunger strike seeks pressure on France to rescind deportations

More than 80 Iranian opponents of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's regime are entering their fourth and fifth weeks of a hunger strike in Washington, Paris, London, and Libreville, Gabon. The fasters are all supporters of the People's Mojahedin of Iran, widely recognized to be the most effective anti-Khomeini Iranian group. They are protesting the Dec. 7 expulsion of 12 members of the group from France to Gabon. The Mojahedin charges the expulsion was part of an ``ugly deal'' between France and Iran which won the release of two French hostages.

Official American specialists agree that the expulsion had more to do with commitments to Iran than the activities of those expelled.

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A spokesman for the 25 hunger strikers in Washington says he is willing to starve himself to death in order to awaken the world to the plight of his exiled colleagues. Mojahedin spokesman Hossein Madani says five hunger strikers in Gabon and 10 in Paris have been hospitalized thus far.

The hunger strikers are demanding that the 12 in Gabon be allowed to return to France, where their status as refugees was recognized by the United Nations, to contest the charges against them. Under French law the government can, in certain cases, expel non-citizens without hearings.

Mojahedin spokesman Madani says the responsibility for any deaths from the fast lies squarely on France and notes that international concern has already forced French officials to alter the initial deal with Iran.

The Mojahedin collected the signatures of over 1,000 parliamentarians from 16 countries in support of their cause. Among those signing the petition to French President Fran,cois Mitterrand were 120 members of the United States Congress, including three presiden-tial candidates - Sen. Albert Gore (D) of Tennessee, Rep. Jack Kemp (R) of New York, and Sen. Paul Simon (D) of Illinois.

Socialist President Mitterrand and his party are pressuring conservative Prime Minister Jacques Chirac on the issue. Mitterrand met Thursday with a senior UN refugee official to discuss the expulsion, and his wife visited the hunger strikers and those hospitalized.

Informed Western diplomats in Paris do not yet see enough French domestic pressure to reverse the decision, however. There is little doubt, US officials say, that Paris sent the 12 Mojahedin to Gabon as a gesture toward Iran. Iranian spokesmen have regularly asked Western countries to limit the Mojahedin's activities, they say. In June 1986, Prime Minister Chirac expelled the Mojahedin's leader and headquarters from France. The group then set up shop in Iraq.

The most recent expulsion is seen by US specialists as part of an arrangement which won the release of two French hostages in Lebanon, ended a police standoff around the French and Iranian embassies in each others' capitals, and resulted in French repayment of several hundred million dollars of a disputed loan to Iran.

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US and other Western officials are concerned that part of the deal could be a shift in France's tough policy on the Gulf war, but so far French officials have pledged no change. French officials deny that any unsavory deals were made. They say France is fully within its rights to demand that those granted asylum not engage in political activities which endanger the public order at home or the safety of Frenchmen abroad. In this case, they say, the Mojahedin's anti-Khomeini propaganda created such a danger.

These officials point out that only 14 of 3,000 or so Iranians in France were expelled and that the decision is being contested in French administrative courts.

Washington specialists are still watching for suspicious signs of France breaking Western ranks to win the release of the three French citizens still held hostage in Lebanon. Mojahedin spokesman Madani charges that two Iranian arms purchasers signed secret agreements in Paris recently. Western intelligence sources say they have received reports, as yet unconfirmed, that France recently agreed to sell military equipment, though not weapons, to Iran. -30-{et

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