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Iran ‘Refugee’ Hits Regime on Terrorism

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A young man who claims to be the son of former Revolutionary Guard Commander Maj. Gen. Mohsen Rezai, one of the most powerful men in Iran, has fled to the United States, where he has been granted refugee status, he said in an interview with The Times on Saturday. He is living in the Los Angeles area.

Ahmad Rezai, 21, said he left Iran to protest the policies of the government, including its support of extremist groups and use of terrorist tactics abroad.

“I want to tell the world that this is the government of Iran, not the people of Iran, that carry out these terrorist activities. The Iranian people are not murderers or killers,” he said.

As a voice of Iran’s youth, he said, he also wanted to warn Iranians to distance themselves from the clergy-led government.

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“I wanted to come abroad to tell the Iranian people what conditions are behind the curtain, since they do not know and everyone lives in fear and under repression,” he said. “This is the best way to fight this regime.”

Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency, meanwhile, is reporting that Rezai has been kidnapped and is being held in the U.S. against his will.

Over the past three days, Rezai has been spreading his message through extensive interviews to the Persian services of the Voice of America, the British Broadcasting Corp. and Israel Radio, which all transmit programs to Iran, as well as a Persian-language radio station in Los Angeles, KRSI.

In an interview with the VOA on Thursday, which was the first time his presence in the U.S. was disclosed, Rezai outlined what he claims is the route of Iran’s assistance to groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, or Party of God.

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“Sometimes Iran gives them money and they purchase weapons themselves, and other times Iran--through coordination at border posts in Turkey and Syria--sends them weaponry,” he said.

For many years, the office of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was responsible for ordering extremist attacks that were planned and executed by the Ministry of Intelligence under Ali Fallahian, Rezai told The Times.

Fallahian was replaced last fall after the inauguration of President Mohammad Khatami.

Rezai differentiated, however, between Khamenei, who as supreme leader has ultimate authority in Iran, and Khatami.

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Rezai said the new president was not involved in, and does not support, extremist activities.

In recent months, Khatami and the U.S. administration have traded overtures in a bid to ease the animosity between the two nations.

Pressed on why he has turned on the very government that his father fought to support, Rezai told The Times on Saturday that he did not want his country to remain in “serious” economic, political or social distress.

After the first of two VOA interviews was broadcast Thursday night, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported Friday that Rezai was “kidnapped” last year from the United Arab Emirates where he had been lured by a job prospect.

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In an interview with Ali Rezai, Ahmad’s 18-year-old brother, IRNA claimed that Rezai was abducted with the help of the People’s Moujahedeen, an opposition group that was added to the U.S. State Department terrorist list this year.

“When he intended to return to Iran, he was kidnapped,” Ali Rezai told IRNA.

After being taken to several European countries, Ahmad was whisked to the United States and is now being held against his will, Ali Rezai said.

IRNA reported that Rezai had tearfully called home Friday and said he had been “submitted to systematic brainwashing” that “forced” him to cooperate with “satanic plots of global arrogance,” a term used in the past to refer to U.S. policy.

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In his interview with The Times, however, Rezai said he had not called home and had spoken to his father once about two weeks ago.

Because of the July 4 holiday, U.S. officials said they could not confirm the terms of Rezai’s presence in the United States.

Rezai, a former mathematics student at Tehran’s Teacher Training College, claims that he fled Feb. 5, first to the United Arab Emirates, where he received financial and visa help from Iranian contacts. He then went to Cyprus, Switzerland and Austria, where he says he appealed at the U.S. Embassy for refugee status based on fear of persecution.

He arrived in the United States March 27, he said.

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Quds Razavi, the VOA correspondent in Los Angeles, and Ali Farhoodi, editor of the VOA Persian service in Washington, both said they are sure Rezai is who he claims to be.

Rezai said he came to the United States because freedom of speech would allow him to deliver his message and because the largest Iranian community outside Iran is in Southern California.

Rezai’s father, who led the Revolutionary Guards for more than a decade, was replaced after Khatami’s election last year. He is now secretary-general of the Expediency Council, Iran’s highest body for political arbitration.


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