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IRANIAN DIPLOMATS DOUBLE AS ASSASSINS

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The recent assassination in Switzerland of a leading opponent of the Iranian government was carried out with high-level approval in Iran and used Iranian diplomats as terrorists. The government of Iran even provided a getaway plane for the conspirators.

That is the conclusion of West European and U.S. intelligence sources, terrorism experts and members of the Iranian resistance. The victim was Kazem Rajavi, an Iranian living in exile in Switzerland. He had been an outspoken critic of the Ayatollah Khomeini and his successor, Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani. As we reported in an earlier column, our sources believe the hit, on April 24, was timed between the release of two American hostages. The publicity and the praise for Iran put the assassination on the back pages. The assassins used the weekly Iran Air flight between Geneva and Tehran as their getaway plane. It was held up for an hour to make sure all the conspirators were aboard. Swiss police have publicly named two Iranians, Yadollah Samadi and Mohammed Rezvani, as their suspects. The police say the two men stayed in a Geneva hotel and hired the car used in the ambush of Rajavi.But our sources say the police have a longer list of suspected co-conspirators. Some are diplomats who double as terrorists - a job description perfected in Iran. The suspects include:

- Siroos Nasseri, the Iranian envoy to the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva. He reportedly told Rajavi that he would be "liquidated" if he didn't stop criticizing Iran.

- Mohammed Hossein Malaek, the Iranian envoy to Switzerland. His appointment was protested by the U.S. State Department in a highly classified cable because of his involvement in the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Malaek is known to have personally interrogated some of the 52 American hostages held by Iran for 444 days.

- Hadi Najafabadi, the Iranian envoy to the United Arab Emirates. He is a trusted minion and message carrier for Rafsanjani. Najafabadi arrived in Geneva four days before the assassination and left on the getaway plane.

- Karim Abadi, the Iranian consul general in Geneva. He used to be an interrogator and torturer in Iranian prisons and was particularly annoyed that Rajavi publicly harped on the despicable conditions in those prisons. Our sources say Abadi's role in the assassination was to get false documents and shelter for the hit men. In an intercepted telephone conversation between Abadi and his superiors, he allegedly reported that the operation was a success and that one of the assassins was safe in the consulate.

- Hassan Mashadi Ghahvechi, an Iranian representative to the U.N. Disarmament Committee. He has in the past boasted about his terrorist activities, including an attack on an Iranian resistance base in 1982, which killed Rajavi's sister-in-law. Ghahvechi claimed to have personally fired the rocket-propelled grenades into her house.

Iran hasn't owned up to the recent assassination, but leaders in Tehran didn't shed any tears over Rajavi. On the day after the murder, one parliamentary deputy ranted on the radio, "The Islamic regime has a free hand in suppressing these noxious (resistance leaders.) Capture and kill them!"