Tue, Sep 30, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Young Khomeini calls on Bush to intervene in Iran

AFP , WASHINGTON

"Welcome Mister Khomeini," read the unlikely sign hanging on the 12th floor of a Washington building, home to a conservative think tank hosting the Ayatollah Khomeini's grandson.

Facing journalists and re-searchers in dark suits, Hossein Khomeini, dressed in a traditional white jacket and black turban, took easily to the question-and-answer routine.

"Do you think that Iran has an atomic weapon?" asked an Iranian-American journalist in Farsi.

Khomeini's piercing eyes darkened as his eyebrow furrowed.

"I have no specific information. But it is such a troublemaker-regime that I won't be surprised. And if they don't have it now, they will have it in the future, I have no doubt about it," he said, running his finger along his beard, which is not yet as thick as his grandfather's.

He spoke softly, but still set the tone for 90 minutes of relentless criticism of the Islamic regime in his country. Hossein Khomeini, a well-educated Shiite Muslim steeped in Western philosophy, had been asked by the ayatollah to keep quiet with his ideas for a true democracy in Iran.

But after his grandfather and his uncle Ahmad died, Hossein received threats and lived in isolation in the holy city of Qom, until he decided to flee across the border with Iraq.

"Under the shah, at least, religious practice was free. Today, after the revolution, Iran is one of the worst dictatorships," he said, running his fingers along his prayer beads.

Khomeini welcomed the US-led invasion of Iraq, which he said had made it a "free country," and called on US President George W. Bush to intervene in Iran and install a "true democracy."

"Iran is intruding into Iraqi territory, and maybe it will force the United States to intervene in Iran too," said Khomeini, who has lived in Iraq for several months.

"Mr. Bush should act like Churchill when he gathered around him the British population to fight against Hitler," he said, before singing the praises of Western democracy and its "indispensable" freedoms of thought and of religion.

Another question, this time about terrorist groups backed by Iran, particularly Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories.

"No Muslim should be allowed to have such activities. Unfortunately, Iran is a longtime supporter of terrorism. This regime is one of the most active supporters of terrorism," he said.

Before he left, Khomeini wished a "happy new year" to his sur-prised host.

"The Jewish New Year," explained the translator.

Khomeini left the room to a round of applause.

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