Sunday, July 03, 2005

U.S.: Man in photo not Ahmadinejad -

U.S.: Man in photo not Ahmadinejad -: "U.S.: Man in photo not Ahmadinejad
7/3/2005 3:33:00 PM GMT

1979 file photo showing one of 60 U.S. hostages, blindfolded and with his hands bound

U.S. investigators have concluded that the man who appeared escorting an American hostage in a 1979 photograph that was published this week wasn’t Iran’s president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The conclusion casts doubt on what had been considered a key evidence indicating that Iran's new president was among the groud of Iranian students who seized control of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held dozens of American hostages for 444 days.

According to U.S. official familiar with the investigation of Ahmadinejad's alleged role in 1979 U.S. embassy siege, analysts had found "serious discrepancies" between the figure in the 1979 photo and other images of Mr. Ahmadinejad, including differences in facial structure and features, the official said.

The official stressed that the investigation was continuing and that it was "still an open question" whether Ahmadinejad was involved in the hostage crisis.

Meanwhile, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that those involved in the inquiry were "searching through all the information at their disposal," and will interview former hostages.

The intelligence community was involved in the inquiry, McCormack stated.

Iran is urging the European politicians and media not to fall for a slur campaign that accuses president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of being a hostage-taker and aiding state-sponsored murders.

The Iranian president-elect Ahmadinejad has vehemently denied he was involved in storming the U.S. embassy in Tehran and holding 52 hostages for 444 days in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

One of the president-elect's aides also dismissed an accusation from an outspoken Austrian lawmaker and an opposition group that Ahmadinejad was involved in the killings of three Kurdish activists in Vienna in 1989.

"The charges are so self-evidently false they are not worthy of response," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters.

"We advise the Europeans not to fall into the trap of the Zionist media and to separate their interests from America and the Zionist entity," he said.

The European Union is locked with Iran in talks over its nuclear program which Washington claims is being used to build weapons. Tehran has continusouly denied the U.S.'s charges.

"The enemy has created these allegations to mask the high turnout in elections," Asefi said.

Ahmadinejad, a former Revolutionary Guard, was elected by a landslide majority last month, winning some 62 percent of votes cast on turnout of some 60 percent.

His candidacy appealed to the poor who viewed him as the candidate who would distribute Iran's abundant oil wealth more directly to them."

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