Rafsanjani sends Paris a warning

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PARIS - The President of Iran, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has told France it should stop supporting the Algerian government in its fight against Islamic fundamentalism, saying its backing resembled US support for the Shah before the 1979 Islamic revolution, writes Julian Nundy.

His words are likely to strike a chord in view of French fears that Iran could use an Algerian Islamic guerrilla network to launch a terrorist campaign. In an interview with Le Figaro, a conservative newspaper, published yesterday, President Rafsanjani said he had a message for the French government: 'You must stop supporting the Algerian government. Your country is doing what the US did for the Shah's government. You know the result: today, the US is discredited. The main victims, in this case, are freedom and democracy.'

The President said Iran condemned the violence but it stemmed from the decision to abandon the 1992 elections, which the Islamic Salvation Front was poised to win. 'Why do you support a government which annulled elections on the pretext that they would give its Islamic opponents a majority? Everything started then,' he said.