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The BBC's Rob Watson
"Major implications for the trial already underway"
 real 28k

Monday, 5 June, 2000, 11:54 GMT 12:54 UK
Iran blamed for Lockerbie bomb
Pan Am wreckage
The Pan Am bombing killed 270 people
A man identifying himself as a senior Iranian intelligence service defector has said that Iran, not Libya, masterminded the Lockerbie bombing.

If true, the allegations could radically influence the trial currently under way of two Libyans accused of being behind the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland in 1988.

Iran has rejected the statement, describing the defector, Ahmad Behbahani, as a "dubious individual" whose allegations were part of a plot that was doomed to failure.

Iran has consistently denied accusations that it was behind the bombing. All 259 people on board the plane and 11 people on the ground were killed.

Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister, Mohammad Hossein Adeli, is currently visiting Turkey, but has made no comment on the latest development.

Television interview

Interviewed on the CBS current affairs programme "60 minutes", Mr Behbahani said that Iran had funded and masterminded the bombing of the Pan Am plane.

I am in a difficult position. I fled to Turkey because they were going to kill me

Ahmad Behbahani

Mr Behbahani defected from Iran four months ago, crossing the border into Turkey following a rift with his colleagues.

He is now under protective custody, and is reported to be seeking asylum in the US.

"I am in a difficult position. I fled to Turkey because they were going to kill me," he was quoted as saying by the Hurriyet newspaper.

"I want America to grant me asylum... I know a lot about Iran's terrorist actions, " he added.

An Iranian-born journalist, Roya Hakakian recorded his comments during an interview at the apartment building Mr Behbahani shared with other Iranian exiles in Turkey.

Mr Behbahani said he had until recently been responsible for all "terrorist" operations carried out by the Iranian government beyond its borders.

He reportedly said these operations had included the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

The CBS program makers were prevented by the Turkish authorities from recording an interview.

However, Behbahani told them that he himself had first suggested the airliner bombing to Ahmad Jibril, who heads a radical Syrian-backed group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.

Mr Behbahani said he had then brought into Iran a group of Libyans who underwent 90 days of training to prepare them to carry out the bombing, in coordination with Ahmad Jibril.

The renewed allegations of Iranian involvement in the Lockerbie bombing coincide with the trial of two Libyans accused in the case, which is currently under way at Camp Zeist, in the Netherlands.

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See also:

05 Jun 00 | World
Lockerbie: Conspiracy theories
31 May 00 | World
Case 'not on container floor'
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