- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Those evil words

The head of the Washington office of the Iranian resistance cheered when he heard President Bush list Iran among the members of an "axis of evil."

But then he wondered: if Iran is evil, why is his group still on a U.S. list of terrorist organizations?

"How in the world does that make sense now that Iran is on the axis of evil?" asked Alireza Jafarzadeh of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

The resistance, based in Paris with an army in Iraq, has been trying for 16 years to overthrow Iran's repressive regime, which is listed by the State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism.

During the Clinton administration, Washington began looking for centrists in the Iranian regime in an unsuccessful attempt to normalize relations. The State Department began including elements of the resistance on the list of terrorist groups in 1997.

First listed was the People's Mujahideen, a guerrilla group associated with the resistance council. James Rubin, State Department spokesman at the time, said the council itself was left off the list because, "after a careful review of the evidence," it did not qualify as a terrorist organization.

However, two years later, the council was included after Iran complained.

"The Iranian government brought this to our attention," Martin Indyk, then assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, told the Reuters news agency in October 1999.

The council sued, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled last year that the State Department had violated the council's right of due process. The case is continuing.

Mr. Jafarzadeh told Embassy Row this week that his group is pleased with the new direction of the Bush administration.

"It is a step in the right direction and a step away from the policy of appeasement," he said.

The ayatollahs, the real rulers of Iran, "have been the main source of terrorism for the last decade," Mr. Jafarzadeh charged.

The spiritual leader of the Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, "was the biggest enemy of Islam," Mr. Jafarzadeh said.

"He was a devil. He betrayed our religion," he said, condemning Ayatollah Khomeini for encouraging terrorism in the name of Islam. "If it were not for Khomeini, you would not have had September 11."

Mr. Jafarzadeh agreed that the resistance council has a public relations problem because of its association with Iraq, which along with North Korea completes the axis of evil. But he insisted that the relationship is only one of "convenience."

Mr. Jafarzadeh said the council does not approve of Saddam Hussein's government but accepts his hospitality in order to maintain the bases of the National Liberation Army on the Iraqi side of the border with Iran.

"We did not make the geography. We did not put Iraq next door to Iran," he said.

Besides, he added, when the resistance army first set up camp in Iraq, the United States was supporting Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war.

Sri Lankan truce

The U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka yesterday welcomed a promise by separatist rebels to honor a truce aimed at establishing peace talks to end two decades of war.

Ambassador Ashley Wills said he is encouraged by statements by Anton Balasingham, spokesman for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which the United States considers a terrorist organization.

"I am encouraged by the assurances attributed to Mr. Balasingham that the LTTE is, indeed, committed to a peace process aimed at a negotiated political settlement," Mr. Wills told Reuters news agency.

"We look forward to a productive negotiation facilitated by the Norwegians that will lead to an end to this long conflict."

Norway brokered the cease-fire last month.

The rebel spokesman said all Tamil Tigers have been ordered to observe the truce.

"Those members who are found guilty of violating the cease-fire will be severely punished," he said in a statement posted on the pro-rebel Web site (www.tamilnet.com).

Rebel leader Vellupillai Pirapaharan praised retired Norwegian Gen. Trond Furuhovede for his negotiating efforts.

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