Bitter end to Germany's Iran affair

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The Independent Online
Iran's best friend in the West was sweeping up the debris of its special relationship yesterday, wrecked by the sudden realisation that it has been cavorting all these years with a bunch of murderers.

After a three-day siege of its embassy in Tehran - denounced by a rent- a-mob as the "second nest of spies" - Germany's Foreign Minister struggled to defend his controversial policy of "critical dialogue" with Iran.

The clergy in Qom repaid the compliment by waiving a fatwa at three German prosecutors who had dared to implicate the Iranian leadership in terrorism.

Breaking off diplomatic relations would be, in Mr Kinkel's words, "a rash decision at the moment". Matters may not go that far just yet, but Bonn's self-proclaimed role as honest broker between Iran and the West seems moribund.

"This regime tramples on human rights, sweeps opposition parties it does not like out of the way and blames other people for its actions," the opposition Greens said in a statement. "How much more is the German government willing to take from this regime?"

The answer is probably not a lot. Prominent figures in the main governing party, the Christian Democrats, and the largest opposition party, the Social Democrats, have called on Mr Kinkel to abandon the relationship cultivated since "Big Satan" and "Little Satan" were thrown out of Tehran in 1979.

A rupture would cost money, a subject close to the German Foreign Ministry's heart. Germany is Iran's largest foreign trade partner, swapping goods worth $1.4bn dollars (pounds 850m) last year, with billions more in the order books.

But this cosy affair has been soured by the diligence of a Berlin court investigating the murder of four Kurdish dissidents in the city four years ago. The victims, three leaders of the Iranian Democratic Party of Kurdistan (DPK-I) and their interpreter, died in a hail of bullets as two masked men burst into Berlin's Mykonos restaurant in September 1992 and sprayed the tables with machine guns.

One Iranian, Kazem Darabi, believed to be working for the Iranian secret service, and four Lebanese are standing trial for murder, but witnesses have convinced the judges the real perpetrators of the operation were in Tehran.

Abolhassan Banisadr, the former Iranian president now living in exile in France, told the court that "the plan for killing the Kurds in the Mykonos restaurant was approved by the President and the religious leader of Iran around three months before the assassination".

That statement in effect put President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the dock, triggering the first rumblings of protest in Tehran, but worse was to follow. Last Friday, one of the Berlin prosecutors compounded the insult by publicly voicing his conclusions:

"There is not the slightest doubt that the attack was decided, planned and prepared by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its leaders," Bruno

Jost told the court. "The brazen attempts by the Tehran government to influence the proceedings point to this having happened on Iran's orders," he added, praising the court for "opening the door a bit to the headquarters of Iranian state terrorism and casting a look at the killing machine."

Mr Jost, as everyone now knows in Iran, is in the pay of "Zionists", and yesterday the ayatollahs in Qom likened his activities to Salman Rushdie's "crimes".

Incensed by the slur against their leaders, thousands of Iranian students had taken to the streets spontaneously, brandishing placards castigating "Fascist Germany" and throwing eggs at the embassy.