MADRID, Spain -- Iran today accused the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency of helping to hijack an Iranian torpedo boat.
The 249-ton high-speed attack vessel was seized by anti-Khomeini commandos in a raid on an Iranian three-ship convoy in the Strait of Gibraltar.
'It is clear that the CIA has had a hand in the operation,' an official Iranian foreign ministry statement said.
The group of 40 to 45 commandos were led by the late shah's former navy chief, Adm. Kamal Habibollahi, 50, according to the Paris-based exile group called the Movement of Iranian Liberation (Azadegan).
The Iranian statement said former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance 'was personally involved' in Habibollahi's escape from Iran.
'The head of the pirates is a traitor by the name of Habibollahi in whose escape from Iran the Secretary of State in Carter's administration, Cyrus Vance, was personally involved,' the statement said.
The Azadegan assault force boarded the torpedo boat Tabarzin, apparently in complicity with some of its crew, from a commandeered Spanish tugboat after the vessels left the Atlantic port of Cadiz before dawn Thursday.
The other two ships got away and left Spain Friday.
In Paris a spokesman for the Azadegan organization today said the hijacked boat was now in international waters. He declined to give its exact location.
The organization had claimed Friday it was anchored near Casablanca, although Moroccan naval authorities said the boat had not been sighted off the country's coast.
Iran said the boat had 'been handed over to the American regime in Morocco.'
The Islamic Republic also has demanded that Spain find the torpedo boat.
'The incident happened inside Spain's territorial waters,' Iranian television said late Friday. 'Spain has an obligation to take all necessary steps to find the ship again.'
There was no official Spanish comment.
The commandos had rented a tugboat for the attack, saying they wanted a vacation trip. At sea, they forced the captain at gunpoint to draw alongside the Tabarzin.
'Me and my crew were threatened with guns,' said Capt. Antonio Zajara. 'They smashed our ship radio and set out for the Iranian boat.
'Four or five men in uniform onboard that boat helped the attackers get on board. The rest of the crew was flat on deck.'
The two other boats, identical to the Tabarzin with a 30-man crew, 76-mm prow cannons and 40-mm stern cannons, escaped the attack that Spanish authorities said occurred in Spanish territorial waters. They took refuge in the Spanish port of Algeciras and continued their voyage Friday.
The three 154-feet ships were the last of 12 ordered by Iran from France, which held up delivery during the U.S.-Iranian hostage crisis.
President Francois Mitterand lifted the embargo and the ships left Cherbourg Aug. 1 as the French-Iranian crisis heated up over the French decision to grant asylum to ousted Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr.
Azadegan denied any connection with Bani-Sadr, calling him a 'Khomeini lackey.' The exile group is led by former Imperial Army chief of Staff Gen. Bahmar Aryana, who seeks a return of constitutional monarchy in Iran despite his ovn break with the Shah in 1972.