Fury at German-Iranian talks: Security meeting took place days before attack on Rushdie publisher

Click to follow
The Independent Online
IN THE light of Monday's attempted assassination of Salman Rushdie's Norwegian publisher, Britain and the United States were furious yesterday over a high-level security meeting last week to increase co-operation between Germany's and Iran's intelligence services.

The Iranian Intelligence and Security Minister, Ali Fallahiyan, revealed after the talks that the two intelligence services had been co-operating for two years - raising the prospect that British and US intelligence could have reached Iran through the German link for all that time.

Warren Christopher, US Secretary of State, telephoned his German counterpart, Klaus Kinkel, to express dismay at the talks. A British diplomat said: 'Eyebrows were raised at the liaison style of the meeting. We were particularly perturbed at a report in the Tehran Times with Mr Fallahiyan saying how well it went.'

Rushdie, who has been received in Germany at official level as a show of support, was also angry. He told the Independent: 'These were obviously fine words but not enough. Here we have citizens of free countries being attacked because of some people who claim not to like a book. A country which uses political assassinations as a matter of routine.

'At the same time, the Germans receive the head of the Iranian secret service and issue some spurious statement about mutual security arrangements. How many government bodies in the West are going to carry on receiving these people? They should not be invited to our parties. Our businessmen should not do business with them in the usual friendly fashion.'

Officials were particularly perturbed that the meeting took place only four days before the attempted murder in Oslo of William Nygaard, the publisher of Rushdie's book, The Satanic Verses.

Doctors said yesterday Mr Nygaard, who was shot three times by an unidentified gunman, was likely to make a full recovery. Police said he told them he had not seen his attacker.

Rushdie said about the attack on his publisher and personal friend: 'The only good news is that he is alive. He has no reason to be - except that it was a botched attack, thank goodness. There are not very many reasons why people try to kill publishers. When I haven't been deeply shocked, I've been blind furious. It was a most cowardly attack, so unspeakably evil.'

Mr Fallahiyan held the talks in Germany on Wednesday and Thursday with chiefs of Germany's intelligence and domestic security services, as well as Bernd Schmidbauer, Chancellor Helmut Kohl's top intelligence aide. 'We agreed with the Germans that we don't want to work against each other in each other's country,' Mr Fallahiyan said. Germany is Iran's largest Western trading partner, with exports totalling about pounds 1.5bn.

A Western diplomat said yesterday: 'Iran's activities run counter to their economic interests but they appear intent on a campaign of cultural isolation'.

Iran has been held responsible for a number of attacks against its own dissidents over the past few years. Dissident sources say the work is done by Mr Fallahiyan's department, formally known as the Ministry of Information and Security (Mois). Germany is Mois's main listening post in Europe; it also serves as the principal operations and penetration base against the regime's enemies. It is claimed that the Iranian embassy in Bonn and Iranian Airlines in Frankfurt served as Mois bases. All the ministry's offices and branches in Europe answer to Bonn headquarters.

Since the appointment of Ali Larijani as the Minister of Islamic Guidance, embassy cultural attaches and the bureaus of the Iranian news agency, Irna, are said to have gained importance as centres for intelligence gathering on dissidents, and misinformation. Mois's unofficial media arm is the daily Kayhan, and its overseas edition Kayhan Havai.