Iran General NewsBush says wants answers on Iran leader's past

Bush says wants answers on Iran leader’s past

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Reuters: President George W. Bush said on Thursday he
wanted answers on whether Iranian President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a leader in the 1979 U.S. Embassy siege as some former hostages have said.
Several of the Americans who were held said they recognized
the ultraconservative Tehran mayor — who was elected president in a landslide on Friday — as a ringleader in the hostage-taking. Reuters

By Caren Bohan

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush said on Thursday he wanted answers on whether Iranian President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a leader in the 1979 U.S. Embassy siege as some former hostages have said.

Several of the Americans who were held said they recognized the ultraconservative Tehran mayor — who was elected president in a landslide on Friday — as a ringleader in the hostage-taking.

However, two leading figures in the embassy seizure said he did not take part.

“I have no information,” Bush told reporters during a briefing on the upcoming G8 summit in Scotland. “But obviously his involvement raises many questions, and knowing how active people are at finding answers to questions, I’m confident they will be found.”

Bush also issued a warning to Ahmadinejad, 48, that he and European leaders would send a “strong message” to him about their concerns over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

In the 1979-1981 hostage crisis that led Washington to break ties with Tehran, 52 Americans were held for 444 days.

Bush has branded Iran as part of an “axis of evil” for allegedly pursuing nuclear arms and sponsoring terrorism. Iran denies the charges.

In interviews with U.S. television networks, retired Navy Capt. Donald Sharer and Bill Daugherty said they were convinced Ahmadinejad was one of their Iranian captors.

“He wasn’t a very nice fellow at the time. He called us pigs and dogs. He’s very hard-line, he’s a guy we are not going to get along with,” said Sharer in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” show.

Daugherty said he had “no doubts at all” that Ahmadinejad was one of his hostage-takers.

“When your country is being humiliated and being embarrassed, the individuals that do that really stick in your mind. You don’t forget people who do things like that to you and your family and your country,” Daugherty said.

In Iran, Abbas Abdi, who helped to orchestrate the raid, said Ahmadinejad “was not among those who occupied the American Embassy after the revolution.”

Mohsen Mirdamadi, another ringleader, said: “I deny such reports. Ahmadinejad was not a member of the radical students’ group who seized the embassy.”

Since his victory, U.S. officials have said little publicly about Ahmadinejad, though they have criticized the election itself as flawed and unfair.

Bush said he had spoken to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder about efforts to prevent Iran from pursuing nuclear arms, and he said he would also be speaking to French President Jacques Chirac.

“My message is that it’s very important at this moment for the EU-3 to send a strong message to the new person (in Iran), that the world is united in saying that you should not be given the capabilities of enriching uranium which could then be converted into a nuclear weapon,” Bush said.

“In other words, we’ve got a new man who’s assumed power, and he must hear a focused message,” he added.

The United States accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons but the country’s leaders insist they want to produce nuclear energy for purely peaceful purposes.

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