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Monday, Nov. 5, 1979

Ayatollah denounces U.S. embassy; hostages taken

TEHRAN, Iran, Nov. 5, 1979 (UPI) - Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini today denounced the U S. Embassy where Moslem students hold dozens of American and Iranian hostages as a "center of spying and plotting."

The fate of the hostages, including at least 59 Americans, was unknown as the students who seized the building in a battle with Marine guards vowed not to surrender until the United States returns the shah to Iran.

Khomeini warned the United States of "another course of action" if the shah was not handed over to Iran for Islamic justice and the ayatollah's son entered the embassy today to wild cheering from the occupying students.

Iran's oil minister Ali Akbar Moinfar said today he would cut off crude oil supplies to the United States if ordered to do so by Khomeini, the State radio reported.

The United States has no plans to comply with demands by Iranian students in Tehran to return the former shah of Iran to stand trial, a State Department source said today.

Witnesses said about 50 students moved into the British embassy late today only hours after the state radio broadcast a statement by Khomeini accusing Britain of sheltering former prime minister Shahpour Bakhtiar.

In the southern town of Shiraz and in Tabriz, northwest Iran, students occupied closed U.S. consulates in the two cities. The students belonged to the same organization - "Students Loyal to Khomeini" -- that invaded the embassy in Tehran.

The two consulates had suspended operations since the exodus of the local American communities following the downfall of the shah in February.

Witnesses said about 40 armed government guardsman had entered the British embassy premises and were negotiating with the students.

Ahmed Khomeini, the 46-year-old son of the ayatollah, swept into the embassy amid wild cheering by the more than 10,000 demonstrators and students, many of them teenage girls wearing the black ankle-length veil.

In Qom, the Islamic Religious School threw its "full support" behind the students, telling them, "You have not occupied this place but, rather, you have recaptured it from the invaders."

Khomeini denounced Britain in his speech to insurance company employees in an audience in the Moslem holy city of Qom.

He said Britain must hand over to Iran the shah's last premier, Bakhtiar. But a British embassy spokesman said Bakhtiar was not in Britain.

"If they do not hand over these traitors or at least expel them from their country," Khomeini said in reference to the exiled shah and Bakhtiar, "we shall have another course of action."

The demonstrators burned an American flag, the second since yesterday's takeover, as they chanted, "Khomeini struggles, Carter trembles," "Give us the shah," and "Death to America, death to Carter."

In remarks broadcast today by the state radio, the Islamic leader denounced the United States for giving the shah permission to seek cancer treatment in a New York hospital.

The students stormed the compound yesterday morning and a spokesman for the group said they fought for three hours with U.S. Marine guards, who responded with tear gas, before taking control and seizing the hostages.

"We shall not give up the hostages unless the shah is given to us," one of the student spokesmen told the few reporters allowed into the compound yesterday. The shah is recuperating in a New York hospital from gall bladder surgery and is also to undergo cancer therapy.

A spokesman said the students were holding about 90 Americans and 10 Iranians hostage. No names were released, but diplomatic sources said the chief of mission and charge d'affaires Bruce Laingen was not inside when the embassy was attacked.

In Washington, a State Department spokesman said late yesterday there were probably 59 Americans being held, but added, "We can't be precise."

Outside the embassy compound today, demonstrators massed on the street and revolutionary guards and police patrolling the area were reinforced.

The demonstrators carried posters saying: "America must recognize the revolutionary fury of our proud nation and hand over the butcher of the century."

The slogan, "Khomeini struggles, Carter trembles," appeared on walls of the compound, in badges on the lapels of demonstrators and on placards they carried.

The group of students denied any connections with other political organizations and personalities.

The powerful Shiite clergy of Qom today came out in support of the students' action in "seizing this den of CIA spying to reflect the protest of all supporters of Imam Khomeini."

President Carter conferred twice yesterday with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. But spokesmen were cautious in discussing the extent of Carter's involvement with the volatile situation.

White House sources said the United States received assurances from Iranian officials they would do everything they could to settle the situation peacefully.

Revolutionary music blared from loudspeakers on the outer wall of the embassy, which was under occupation for the second time in nine months. Last Thursday, demonstrators outside the embassy shouted, "This house of spies must be closed."

Copyright 2007 by United Press International.