PARIS — The French government Saturday forced the leader of a left-wing Iranian opposition group to leave the country in a move interpreted here as a conciliatory gesture toward Tehran and the pro-Iranian kidnapers of French citizens in Beirut. He later surfaced in the capital of Iraq, the war foe of Iran.
Massoud Rajavi, leader of the Moujahedeen organization, had been living in exile in France since July, 1981, and his departure came amid stepped-up French efforts to win freedom for nine Frenchmen kidnaped in Lebanon. The Muslim fundamentalist regime in Iran is thought to have connections with the Islamic Holy War group, which claims to hold four of the hostages.
Rajavi arrived in Baghdad aboard a private plane and was met by a number of senior Iraqi officials, the Iraqi news agency reported. Accompanying him were his wife, who is co-leader of the Moujahedeen, and four companions, French regional police said. It was not immediately known if Iraq was granting Rajavi asylum.
Result of Pressure
Although French police said no expulsion order had been served, it was clear that Rajavi's departure was the result of intense pressure. Premier Jacques Chirac said last month that France would crack down on what he called the "excesses" of Iranian political exiles.
In a series of interviews over the past five years, Rajavi openly stated that his aim was to overthrow the government of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. In addition to raising money for guerrilla groups operating inside Iran, the Moujahedeen issued a stream of press statements denouncing alleged human rights abuses by Tehran.
Rajavi's sudden departure followed a large-scale police operation at Auvers-sur-Oise, a sleepy village near Paris that served as headquarters for the Moujahedeen, an Islamic socialist group. Police checked the identities of about 60 Moujahedeen supporters at Rajavi's bunker-like residence.
French police said Rajavi and his group left the country voluntarily. A Moujahedeen statement characterized the move as long-planned, adding that more than 1,000 Moujahedeen members have "gradually left France for Iraq with the aim of joining the resistance forces based on Iranian borders."