- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 1, 2002

NICOSIA, Cyprus Turkey has been listed as a high-priority target for terrorist attacks by agents recruited across the Middle East and trained in Iranian camps, according to diplomatic reports.

The objective of the reported Iranian plan is to destabilize Turkey, Washington's key ally in the region and a country plagued by economic difficulties and guerrilla war by Kurdish separatists.

The United States regards Iran as one of the countries sponsoring international terrorism. In recent weeks, Iran has intensified verbal attacks on Washington for its support of Israel.

Last week, President Mohammed Khatami charged that "radical warmongers" in the United States wanted to widen conflicts in the region to justify U.S. military presence and to help to Israel.

The reports of plans targeting Turkey are largely based on information from Iranians applying for visas for travel to the United States at the U.S. Embassy in Cyprus.

They coincide with a lengthy statement by exiled Iranian opponents, outlining an intricate recruitment and training program of potential terrorists. The program is said to be under the direct supervision of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader.

A statement issued by the People's Mojahedin, an Iranian opposition group operating in Western Europe, mentions Turkey as a potential target, along with several Muslim countries in the region.

They include Pakistan, Lebanon, Algeria and Tunisia.

Earlier this year, U.S. diplomatic sources in the Middle East said Iran had stepped up supplies of arms and explosives to extremist Islamic groups in Lebanon.

The People's Mojahedin, considered by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization "not compatible with U.S. values," has been waging a long propaganda campaign against the Islamic regime in Iran. U.S. suspicions of the group are based on the regional support it receives from Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein.

Nonetheless, U.S. officials acknowledge that the People's Mojahedin is the leading opposition force with contacts across Iran's entire political spectrum.

Some of the group's information distributed to selected media outlets has been corroborated by defectors and diplomatic sources in Tehran.

In February and March 2000, the Mojahedin said it was the perpetrator of bomb and mortar attacks close to the presidential palace and a base of the Revolutionary Guards in Tehran, which injured several people.

The group's latest statement said that activities against Turkey are planned by the "Third Corps" of the "Qods Force," which handles "external operations" consisting of exporting terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism to selected countries.

U.S. specialists in the area are familiar with the force, its objectives and methods.

As far as Turkey is concerned, according to the Mojahedin, the specific task of the Third Corps is to "interfere in Turkish affairs" and "establish contact with Kurdish groups opposed to the Turkish government."

The Mojahedin statement says training of potential terrorists by Iran has not diminished after September's terrorist attacks in the United States.

It quoted an unnamed member of the Qods Force as saying: "After September 11, our activities have become more sensitive. It was decided that until the turmoil cools off, we should have higher security as far as the selection of individuals brought in for training is concerned."

The Mojahedin also indicated that 50 volunteers from countries such as Pakistan and Morocco are undergoing terrorist training in Iran, including preparation for suicide attacks, kidnapping, hijacking planes and hostage taking.

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