Iran's president-elect looks like a hostage-taker

Iran’s new president elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won elections just several days ago, but the victory turns out to be not so glorious. The trouble comes from the United States, where five former American hostages say they got an unexpected reminder of their 444-day ordeal in a hostage crisis in Iran which took place a quarter of a century ago.

Watching coverage of Iran's presidential election on television dredged up 25-year-old memories that prompted four of the former hostages to exchange e-mails. And those four realized they shared the same conclusion - the firm belief that President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been one of their captors during the the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy in Iran.

"This is the guy. There's no question about it," said former hostage Chuck Scott, a retired Army colonel who lives in Jonesboro, Georgia. "You could make him a blond and shave his whiskers, put him in a zoot suit and I'd still spot him."

Scott and former hostages David Roeder, William J. Daugherty and Don A. Sharer told The Associated Press they have no doubt Ahmadinejad, 49, was one of the hostage-takers. A fifth ex-hostage, Kevin Hermening, said he reached the same conclusion after looking at photos.

Not everyone agrees. Former hostage and retired Air Force Col. Thomas E. Schaefer said he doesn't recognize Ahmadinejad, by face or name, as one of his captors.

According to Reuters, two leading figures in the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy in Iran also denied on Thursday reports president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took part in the hostage crisis.

"Ahmadinejad was not among those who occupied the American embassy after the revolution," said Abbas Abdi, who helped to orchestrate the raid on the embassy and the seizure of its staff after the Islamic revolution.

The Times said Ahmadinejad was a 23-year-old university student at the time of the takeover in November 1979 and was a founding member of the radical student group that organised the storming of the U.S. Embassy compound. Mohsen Mirdamadi, another ringleader of the hostage-taking drama in Tehran, rejected the Times report.

President Ahmadinejad's office has strongly denied the reports, says BBC. Photographs have appeared on the internet showing a young bearded man leading a blindfolded American hostage - alleging that this was Mr Ahmadinejad a quarter of a century ago. But the man in the photograph appears much taller than Mr Ahmadinejad, and looks nothing like other pictures of him as a student which can be found on his website, concludes BBC.

A close aide to Ahmadinejad denied the president-elect took part in the seizure of the embassy or in holding Americans hostage. The aide, Meisan Rowhani, told AP from Tehran that Ahmadinejad was asked during recent private meetings if he had a role in the hostage taking. Rowhani said he replied, "No. I believed that if we do that the world will swallow us."

Rowhani said Ahmadinejad said during the recent meeting that he stopped opposing the embassy seizure after the revolution's leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, expressed support for it. But the president-elect said he never took part.

The mayor of Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a former Islamic Revolutionary militia member, won a landslide victory in the presidential runoff election. Right after the election U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said that Ahmadinejad was "no friend of democracy" and dismissed the vote as a "mock election."

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