- The Washington Times - Monday, August 4, 2003

BAGHDAD — The grandson of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the fiery cleric who launched an anti-American Islamic revolution in Iran, said in an interview that his countrymen would accept U.S. military intervention to liberate their nation.

“In Iran the people really need freedom, and freedom must come about. Freedom is more important than bread,” Hussein Khomeini, 45, a midlevel cleric who has taken up temporary residence in Iraq, told The Washington Times.

“But if there’s no way for freedom in Iran other than American intervention, I think the people would accept that. I would accept it, too, because it’s in accord with my faith.”

Mr. Khomeini — here ostensibly on a religious pilgrimage to Shi’ite holy sites in Najaf, Karbala and Baghdad — also praised the U.S. takeover of Iraq, saying American forces were seen by Iraqis as liberators rather than occupiers.

“I see day by day that the country is on the path to improvement,” he said. “I see that there’s security, that the people are happy, that they’ve been released from suffering.”

The United States has accused the clerical regime in Tehran of harboring terrorists, trying to build nuclear weapons and oppressing its own people.

During the 1979 Iranian revolution, followers of the young Mr. Khomeini’s grandfather stormed the American Embassy and kept employees hostage for more than a year.

These days the United States and its Iraqi allies also accuse Iran of attempting to subvert postwar Iraq by allowing militants to enter the country and using its pull with Shi’ite clerics, such as Moqtada al Sadr, to shake the Iraqi government.

Nevertheless, the new Iraqi Governing Council has begun meeting with Iranian officials.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Sadeghi began a visit to Iraq several days ago, meeting with Iraqi officials, said Adnan Pachachi, Iraq’s former foreign minister and a leading member of the 25-member Governing Council.

“We discussed all aspects of relations between the two countries,” Mr. Pachachi said.

Mr. Khomeini crossed the Iranian border into occupied Iraq about a month ago for a visit.

Iran and Iraq have been regional rivals for decades. Iraq harbored Ayatollah Khomeini after the shah of Iran kicked him out of the country.

During his exile years in the Iraqi city of Najaf, Ayatollah Khomeini masterminded the revolution that ousted the shah and established the world’s first modern-day theocracy.

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