Foremost in the line of fire is Bernd Schmidbauer, Chancellor Helmut Kohl's top intelligence official, who holds the rank of minister of state. Mr Schmidbauer liaised with Iran for two years, during which time it is feared other in telligence might have been passed to Tehran. Mr Schmidbauer is said to have had a 'hobbyhorse' about collaborating with Iran despite warnings relations were getting too close. German parliamentarians have called for his resignation. It was to Mr Schmidbauer personally that the British ambassador to Bonn delivered his protest on Wednesday.
After two earlier British protests this week and at least one from the US, Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, yesterday sent a personal message to his German counterpart, Klaus Kinkel. Mr Hurd said that, under the Maastricht agreement on common foreign and security policy, the EC was expected to act in unison. The Edinburgh summit guidelines agreed by the Twelve made clear that Iran must improve its stance on terrorism and the fatwa against Salman Rushdie before ties could be improved.
The storm surrounds a meeting in Bonn last week between Mr Schmidbauer and the Iranian intelligence minister, Ali Fallahiyan. Mr Fallahiyan revealed after the meeting that the two had been collaborating for two years and had agreed to increase their co-operation.
A British official said Britain had no reason to disbelieve Mr Fallahiyan's claims. German explanations of the meeting had not only failed to reassure Britain, but 'if anything, had made things worse'.
Diplomats believe the German co-operation is part of a 'protection racket' run by Iran. The shooting of Mr Rushdie's publisher in Norway last Monday, just three days after Mr Fallahiyan's Bonn visit, may have served as a reminder to Germany of the benefits of co-operating with Tehran. Mr Fallahiyan revealed that he and Mr Schmidbauer had agreed 'that we don't want to work against each other in each other's country'.
Diplomatic sources said another factor to be considered was the case of three men, believed to be Iranian agents, who are awaiting trial in Germany for the assassination of four Iranian dissidents in Munich last year. German police are said to be holding Mr Fallahiyan responsible for the attack and hope to be able to prove it in court. At the same time, the Iranians have arrested four German nationals in Tehran to warn the Germans off pursuing the Munich case. The German prosecutor has refused to drop it.Reuse content