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Iranian Bookstore Sells 'Secret' U.S. Papers Seized in Embassy Takeover

July 12, 1986|DANIEL AKST | Times Staff Writer

The Ketab Iranian bookstore in Encino has all kinds of books in Farsi, from "2001: A Space Odyssey" to "The Rubaiyat" by Omar Khayyam.

But it also has 49 of the 53 volumes purporting to contain secret documents seized by student militants at the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979. The books, each in English as well as Farsi, are part of Ketab's 8,000-volume private library. But the store has about a dozen duplicates for sale.

"I am not for Khomeini," said Bijan Khalili, part owner of the bookstore and library on Ventura Boulevard. "I am against him. But we have democracy here (at Ketab), just like in the U.S."

The volumes, which the Iranian government says are published in Iran by the same student militants who occupied the embassy for 444 days during the Carter Administration, are not widely available.

Ibrahim Pourhadi, area specialist for Iran at the Library of Congress, said his unit has all 53 and that several major university libraries may also have them, but that he knew of none for sale in this country outside of the Encino store.

More Volumes Expected

Pourhadi said many more of the volumes are expected before the documents are exhausted, and that he relies on friends and other sources to provide them as they come out. Khalili said he obtains the books from Iranian book dealers, the same way he gets other Iranian works.

Iran does not have diplomatic relations with the United States. But Amir Zamani, press officer at the Iranian Mission to the United Nations in New York, said the series, called "Documents From the Den of the Spies," is being published by a group called "Students Following the Line of the Imam."

He said the group consists of the same students militants who seized the embassy, and that he didn't know where the money for publishing the books came from, but that his government was not involved.

Neither is his government perturbed, he added.

"Certainly at this time, the relationship between Iran and the U.S. is at a state in which actions of this sort are not disturbing," he said.

State Department officials familiar with the volumes couldn't be reached, and a spokeswoman for the Central Intelligence Agency said agency policy is not to comment.

Books Sell for $7

The books, which sell for about $7 at the Encino store, apparently contain thousands of pages of classified reports and communications concerning Iran and other countries in the Middle East.

"Ketab" means book in Farsi, the Iranian language, and Ketab Corp. was founded by Khalili and his partner, Sohrab Rostamian, in 1980, shortly after they arrived in the United States. Both are Iranian Jews in their mid-30s who say they fled political repression after the rise of Islamic fundamentalists in their native country.

The bookstore draws many of its customers from an Iranian community in Southern California said to number between 110,000 and 300,000. Besides the bookstore, Ketab also publishes an Iranian Yellow Pages and serves as an unofficial information center for Iranian immigrants in the area, Khalili said.

Some of the documents in the volumes have clearly been reassembled after shredding, and many if not most are marked confidential or secret. One whole volume is devoted to documents concerning Israel, and another to documents on Kuwait.

There are also records purporting to detail U.S. efforts to cultivate sources within the clerical aristocracy that came to power after the fall of the Shah in February of 1979, and documents describing poor security at the U.S. Embassy compound.

Wide Range of Subjects

Subjects covered range from the mundane (formation of a volleyball league among diplomatic personnel) to the conspiratorial. In one volume, for example, there are instructions for using what appears to be a fake Belgian passport.

"Your cover occupation is that of a commercial business representative," the instructions say. "It is not uncommon to find a Belgian whose native language is Flemish living in a nominally French-speaking section of Belgium. . . . You can say that you were born in Antwerp. . . ."

Another document, marked "SECRET/SENSITIVE," concerns embassy security and appears to be dated Aug. 1, 1979, about three months before the embassy was seized.

"We have the impression that the threat to U.S. Embassy personnel is less now than it was in the spring; presumably the threat will diminish somewhat further by the end of this year. Nevertheless, the danger of hostages being taken in Iran will persist.

"We should make no move towards admitting the Shah until we have obtained and tested a new and substantially more effective guard force for the Embassy. Secondly, when the decision is made to admit the Shah, we should quietly assign additional American security guards to the Embassy to provide protection for key personnel until the danger period is considered over."

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