June 4, 2000   

Reuters - Iran Defector Talks to CBS

CBS television said on Sunday that a senior Iranian intelligence service 
defector had claimed the bombing of a Pan Am aircraft over Scotland was 
masterminded by Iran and not Libya. The defector, now in protective custody 
in Turkey, told an associate producer of the "60 Minutes" current affairs 
program that he had documents to prove Tehran was behind the Lockerbie 
bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988. The Iranian, who had been in a refugee 
camp in Turkey, was now being de-briefed by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) 
officials, the program said. The CIA would only say he "was in Iranian 
intelligence," a Washington official told CBS. CBS said its producer entered 
the refugee complex in disguise and without a camera to make contact with the 
man who claims to be Ahmad Behbahani, who coordinated all of Iran's overseas 
acts of terrorism for at least the past decade.  "He told us it was Iran, not 
Libya, that planned and directed the blowing up of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, 
Scotland that killed 270 people," the CBS program said in its introduction. 
 "If his story can be confirmed, and American intelligence is trying to do 
that right now, it would not only disrupt the trial of the two Libyans 
charged with that bombing, it could interfere with the Clinton 
administration's efforts at relaxing and improving relations with Iran," it 
added.  Iran vowed the skies would "rain blood" after the USS Vincennes shot 
down an Iran Air flight in July 1988, killing 290. It was widely assumed at 
first that Tehran ordered the destruction of the Pan Am airliner with 
Syrian-sponsored help.  Behbahani, who said he had lost a power struggle in 
Tehran, was arrested then escaped, told the CBS producer he was responsible 
for the Lockerbie attack. 

The producer said: "It all began, he says, when he proposed the job, along 
with a blueprint, to Ahmed Jabril, the radical Palestinian terrorist. 
 "Jabril replied by saying he agreed with the plan and that he sent a list of 
requirements which included explosives and other things that he needed in 
order for the operation to be carried out."  The producer added: "He 
(Behbahani) said after that we proceeded by bringing in a group of Libyans 
into Iran and training them at a special site, which was called the Lavison 
School, for a period of 90 days, and he was very proud to also mention that 
the bomb was so very sophisticated that it required that kind of intensive 
training."  Robert Baer, a former CIA terrorism expert, tested Behbahani for 
the CBS program with a "control question" which no one outside the 
intelligence community could have known. He answered correctly.  Baer, who 
worked on the CIA's Lockerbie inquiry, told CBS: "He's the only person that 
has tied Libya and Iran into Pan Am 103, into the Lockerbie bombing. This is 
the first authoritative source that I've ever heard that connected the two 
countries together. It was always a mystery."  Baer said: "The CIA for about 
6 to 7 months accepted the hypothesis that Iran, after the shoot down of the 
Airbus would take revenge against the United States."  The former agent 
added: "There were pieces of solid evidence that Iran was planning to shoot 
down an American airliner, but none of it was absolutely conclusive.  "And 
then once the forensic evidence was found on the ground which pointed at 
Libya the prosecutors and investigators were forced to drop the Iranian angle 
and look at Libya instead. It was totally forgotten."  Behbahani also told 
Baer he had evidence that Tehran bombed Khobar Towers, the U.S. military 
complex in Saudi Arabia. Nineteen 19 American soldiers were killed in the 
1996 attack.  The program played an audio tape of Behbahni in which he said 
Jabril's group under the direction of Iran, had coordinated an attack on a 
Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994. His account named the hit 
squad, many of them Syrians, the program said.  Before CBS could secure 
Behbahani's documents the Turkish authorities took him to a more secure 
custody.  On Behbahani, the producer said: "I traced the tone of someone who 
was extremely bitter, and was willing to go to any lengths in order to get 
revenge. He had fallen out of favor with the Iranian officials, with the 
government of Iran, and he just wanted to get back at them, at any cost." 

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