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U.S. Will Hold Iran Responsible if Anyone Acts on Death Threat

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The United States has warned Iran’s leaders that they would be held responsible if anyone responds to a call from the speaker of the Iranian parliament to kill Americans.

“We will hold the Iranian leadership responsible for any attacks on American interests or citizens,” State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said Friday.

She was reacting to a statement earlier in the day by the speaker, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, urging Iranians to kill five Americans or other Westerners for every Palestinian killed by the Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He said the target should be Americans, because they were more difficult to kill than Israelis.

This “call for murder and terrorism marks another step backward for Iran away from the community of civilized nations,” Tutwiler said.

“So long as the support of terrorism remains an instrument of Iranian policy, the Iranian government will guarantee its isolation and the continuing hardships of the Iranian people.”

Tutwiler added that “Rafsanjani’s statement is an attack on all who are trying to bring peace to the Middle East. His incitement to terrorism should be rejected by all who are committed to a negotiated settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

STABBING MAY HAVE BEEN TERRORISM

News reports from Tunis over the weekend indicated that Palestinian officials had rejected the Iranian call for murder. “We are against this poisoned advice to the Palestinian people to commit international terrorism against innocent people,” a Palestine Liberation Organization spokesperson was quoted as saying.

PLO leader Yasir Arafat has said the PLO formally renounced terrorism when its legislative body, the Palestine National Council, convened in Algiers last November.

Tutwiler also announced Friday that the State Department now believes that the attack by a 25-year-old knife-wielding Arab in Jerusalem last week, which left two Israelis dead and three others wounded, may have been an act of terrorism.

She said the “motivation is unclear” as to why the Arab from the West Bank town of Ramallah attacked Jews waiting for a bus in downtown Jerusalem on May 3.

But the Islamic Jihad in Palestine, a fundamentalist Moslem group believed to be mainly operating in the Gaza Strip, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

“If this claim was true, these attacks would meet our standards as an act of terrorism,” Tutwiler said.

On Thursday, Tutwiler said she did not know how the State Department defined terrorism.

But later, she issued a statement saying that the department’s working definition of terrorism is “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine state agents.”

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