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Europe grows more uneasy with Iran

Khobar

Could move closer to U.S. position on sanctions

December 24, 1996
Web posted at: 3:30 p.m. EST (2030 GMT)

From Correspondent Ralph Begleiter

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States and its European allies may be moving toward separate turning points that could lead to new confrontation with the government of Iran.

For the United States, it's the Khobar Towers military housing bombing. For Germany, its the aftermath of a 1992 massacre of three Kurdish Iranian dissidents in a Berlin restaurant. And for Israel and the United States, it's a recent upsurge in new weapons supplies from Iran to southern Lebanon.

The FBI is now reviewing details of the Saudi investigation of the Khobar Towers bombing, which killed 19 Americans. Iran is suspected of supporting, if not planning, the bombing in Saudi Arabia.

Washington accuses Iran's government of direct involvement in about two dozen incidents of terrorism since 1990, and indirect involvement through "surrogates" in many more

Iran rejects that contention.

Rafsanjani

"We have repeatedly denied any kind of involvement of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the incident of Dhahran," said Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Valayati. "And once again, we categorically deny any kind of involvement."

In Germany, an Iranian agent is on trial for masterminding the Berlin murders. Germany has also indicted Iran's intelligence minister.

U.S. CIA Director John Deutch said in testimony before the U.S. Senate that the German action "reflects a growing appreciation in Europe that Iran does not have good intentions towards not only the United States, but the West in general, western Europe in general."

Chrobog

Germany does maintain diplomatic ties with Iran, but the strain of the Berlin indictment prompted Chancellor Kohl and Iranian President Rafsanjani to exchange letters:

"The discussions with Iran have become tougher, a bit more unpleasant," said Germany's ambassador to the United States, Juergen Chrobog.

Europeans have kept open a dialogue with Tehran, partly because of Europe's dependence on Persian Gulf oil and business with Iran. The Europeans think U.S. sanctions are too harsh an approach, perhaps even pushing Iran's religious leaders to support more terrorism.

But if Iran is held responsible for terrorism in Germany and Saudi Arabia, the United States could be more successful in launching not only a unilateral response, but an international effort to punish the Tehran government.

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