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History held hostage



Published: Fri, July 1, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Los Angeles Times: The chances that the president-elect of Iran would thaw relations with the country he called "the Great Satan" a quarter of a century ago were infinitesimal from the start. But they managed to get slimmer with the assertion by several Americans that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was among the group that in 1979 took them hostage at the U.S. Embassy for 444 days.

Iranians who admit to having been hostage-takers scoffed at the reports. Biographies of the new president say he was a member of a faction of the radical group that took over the embassy, but Ahmadinejad's supporters said that, far from targeting the U.S. Embassy, he wanted to seize the Soviet Embassy as part of his fight against Marxism.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said Thursday that the administration takes the former hostages' claims seriously and is investigating. National security adviser Stephen Hadley was cautious, emphasizing that the claims were "allegations" needing to be looked at.

Even if no clear evidence emerges to support the former hostages' memories, Ahmadinejad's presidency is likely to worsen the relationship with Washington. He's close to the unelected clergy who hold real power in Iran and his supporters said they hoped his tenure would restore to the country the revolutionary spirit of 1979.




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