Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini accused the CIA Saturday of hijacking an Iranian gunboat off the Spanish coast and Iran's armed forces chief-of-staff said it meant war with the United States.
Possibly carried away by his own revolutionary rhetoric, Brig. Gen. Valiollah Falahi told Tehran Radio the hijacking amounted to war with the United States.
'We are not only at war with Iraq, we are at war with superpower America and its allies. The battlefield includes a major part of Europe, all of America and the waters of the Atlantic Ocean,' Falahi declared.
From his exile in France, former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr disclosed that shortly after the U.S. Embassy was seized on Nov. 4, 1979, Khomeini personally decided to hold the 52 American hostages until at least after Iran's parliamentary elections held the following May.
The hostages, held for 444 days, were finally released last Jan. 20 - kept even longer to serve what Bani-Sadr charged were Khomeini's 'despotic' political purposes.
In Iran, state-run Tehran radio reported 27 more executions of political opponents and another 26 executions of drug smugglers. In addition, it said, one homosexual and an adulterer were stoned to death in Shiraz, about 500 miles south of Tehran.
The 55 deaths brought the number of people executed in Iran since Bani-Sadr's dismissal June 22 to at least 534.
It said seven people, including a cleric and several Revolutionary Guards and 'government employees,' were killed in a series of bombings and shootings around the country.
Pars also said two motorcyclists attacked the home of Iran's Supreme Court President Ayatollah Musavi Ardebili, who reportedly was not hurt. But the agency said a Moslem theologian in Khuzestan province was injured by a time bomb in an assassination attempt.
The most intriguing twist to the unpredictable Iranian revolution concerned the whereabouts of an Iranian gunboat hijacked off the coast of Spain Thursday by a group of Iranian exiles led by the late shah's former navy chief, Adm. Kamal Habibollahi.
Tehran Radio quoted Khomeini as saying the 'hand of the CIA' was responsible for the piracy of the French-made missile boat, one of three that were being delivered to Iran.
The Iranian ruler said former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance was also to blame because, according to Khomeini, he helped Habibollahi to escape from Iran.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Rush Taylor said the charge 'doesn't really deserve a comment.'
The whereabouts of the 249-ton missile boat meanwhile remained a mystery.
Khomeini claimed the pirates sailed to Casablanca and turned the boat over to 'the American regime in Morocco.'
Morocco denied it, however, and a spokesman for Habibollahi's Paris-based exile group, the Azadegan, said the boat was now in 'international waters,' though he refused to say where.
But the Azadegan also issued a statement saying the boat will be used as 'the provisional seat of (the Iranian) government-in-exile' and added that one of the boat's new crew members was a 21-year-old woman, identified only as Mithra.
In his first interview since France evacuated its citizens from Iran earlier this week, Bani-Sadr told reporters outside Paris that Khomeini from the outset intended to keep the American hostages for a long time.
He said Khomeini told him shortly after the hostages were seized in November that they would not be released until after the Iranian presidential and parliamentary elections.
'The Imam (Khomeini clearly explained to me the aim of the (hostage) affair,' Bani-Sadr said. ''The Americans do not want our regime to establish itself, so we will keep the hostages until the adoption of the constitution and until the presidential and parliamentary elections,'' he quoted Khomeini as saying.
'His objective was not, as has been claimed, anti-imperialist and anti-American,' Bani-Sadr said. 'He used the hostages to re-establish despotism, that is to say the dictatorship of the mullahs.'