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U.S. Claims Iran Trained Suicide Bombers to Hinder Peace Process

By Robin Wright
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON

Over the last six months, Iran has escalated its campaign to sabotage the Middle East peace process by training Palestinian suicide bombers who have been increasingly successful in killing Israeli troops, senior U.S. officials say.

The two suicide bombers who carried out an attack that killed 22 Israelis on Jan. 22 had returned recently from training in Iran, the officials said. After their deaths the Iranian government made payments to the families of both men, the officials added.

Other Islamic militants reportedly have been trained in Lebanon and Sudan with the help of Iranian funds and personnel. Their instruction covers bomb-making - and religion.

If true, the charges would represent the first time that Iran has been directly linked to specific attacks by extremists attempting to thwart the September 1993 agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization on Palestinian self-government.

And even if not, the Clinton administration's conviction that the charges are valid helps explain why President Clinton, who has been branding Iran a "paymaster to terrorists," signed an executive order last week banning all U.S. trade with and investment in Iran.

The White House said the action was taken to "underscore our opposition to the actions and policies of the government of Iran, particularly its support of international terrorism and its efforts to obtain materials and assistance critical to the development of nuclear weapons."

In addition, U.S. officials said, the administration is protesting Iran's progress in developing chemical weapons and its acquisition of technology that would allow it to manufacture its own medium-range, surface-to-surface Scud missiles within two years.

"There was no precipitating event that led to the sanctions decision. It was the product of a pattern of worrying behavior," a key U.S. official said. Like other officials who spoke about Iran, he asked that his name not be used.

Iran has denied charges that it has trained Palestinian suicide bombers.

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