Iran tried to hire IRA hit-men: Provos turned down offer of guns, missiles and cash to murder three dissidents in Europe

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The Independent Online
THE IRA has turned down a request by Tehran to assassinate three leading Iranian dissidents in exchange for explosives, guns, missiles and cash, according to informed sources in Iran.

The deal was allegedly put to IRA representatives by officials from the Iranian Information (intelligence) Ministry at a meeting in Tehran last November but was turned down in February this year.

This latest revelation comes after the Iranian charge d'affaires in London, Gholamreza Ansari, was summoned to the Foreign Office last Thursday to be told that known contacts with the IRA should cease. British intelligence had information that Iran was plotting to supply the IRA with guns and money.

The Iranian sources, who have contact with the Information Ministry, said that at last November's meeting the Iranians offered to meet an IRA 'shopping list' in exchange for the murder of three named people. The list included:

Micro-communications and eavesdropping equipment;

Semtex explosive;

eight Stinger surface-to-air missiles;

400 Colt pistols and 80,000 rounds of ammunition;

100 Uzi submachine guns and 50,000 rounds of ammunition;

dollars 6m ( pounds 4m) in counterfeit dollar bills and dollars 500,000 in real bills.

The IRA was to assassinate three people: the former Iranian president, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, exiled in France since 1981; Javad Dabiran, a spokesman for the opposition People's Mujahedin Organisation, based in Bonn; and Farzaneh Taidi, a prominent Iranian actress exiled in London. Ms Taidi angered the regime for her part in the 1991 film Not Without my Daughter, which depicts the plight of the American-born wife of an Iranian stranded in post-revolution Iran.

The offer was made on the margins of a meeting in the Iranian capital which also involved the Greek left-wing group November 17, Corsican nationalists and ETA, the Basque separatists, the sources said.

They said the IRA took three months to consider the scheme, although informed Western sources said the IRA was known to have rejected previous proposals to carry out assassinations, including requests from Libya.

The Iranian sources also gave new details of contacts between Iran and the IRA going back to shortly after the 1979 revolution, when IRA representatives attended a 'world meeting of liberation organisations' in Tehran.

At that time, Tehran wanted the IRA to provide weapons and logistics for Iranian teams sent to Europe to kill prominent opponents of the new regime, including General Fereydoon Jam, a brother-in-law of the late Shah, Ardeshir Zahedi, a former ambassador to Washington, and Shapour Bakhtiar, the Shah's last prime minister, who was murdered in Paris in 1992. The assassinations did not go ahead, although the sources did not know if this was because the IRA had refused to co-operate.

The initial reaction from Tehran to last week's British warning was muted. But over the weekend the tone of press comment hardened, after a briefing by Hojatoleslam Hossein Rohani, chairman of the parliamentary defence committee.

'How can anyone criticise Iran for having contacts with the IRA when the US does exactly the same when it receives Mr Gerry Adams?' said the radical daily Salam.

The semi-official daily Etelaat in effect confirmed the Iran-IRA contacts when it said: 'Why, when British MPs and government officials rationalise their direct contacts with Iranian terrorists (a reference to the People's Mujahedin leadership) . . . should the same not apply to Iran? Why should we be ashamed of our contacts?'

The official news agency, Irna, quoted an unidentified Sinn Fein spokesman denouncing the British allegations of co-operation between the IRA and Iran as 'baseless and trouble-making'. 'The noises the British make are because of their failure to reach peaceful agreement over Ireland,' the spokesman was quoted as saying. He claimed Britain was trying to cover up the arming of loyalist terrorists by MI5.

It is known in Northern Ireland that the IRA has long wanted Stinger missiles to shoot down Army helicopters, and the cash on offer from Iran would have been tempting in the face of British measures against IRA fund-raising.

On the other hand, high-profile assassinations attract intelligence attention and the IRA would not relish a 'guns for hire' image. In particular, killings on behalf of Iran would damage the republican movement's American support.

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