BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Iran Wednesday outlawed the communist Tudeh Party for plotting to overthrow Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's regime and expelled 18 Soviet diplomats for 'taking advantage of trecherous' agents, the Iranian news agency said.
The expulsion order came a week after the arrest of the first secretary of the Tudeh Party, Nurreddin Kianouri, who purportedly confessed to spying for the Soviets.
While not directly accusing the Soviets of participating in a coup plot, the foreign ministry said in a statement that their 'blatant interference is an open violation of diplomatic regulations and of internationally recognized principles.'
The Soviets, including three military attaches and the Soviet consul in Isfahan, were given 48 hours to get out of the country, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
The foreign ministry summoned Soviet Ambassador V.K. Boldyrev to inform him that 18 members of his diplomatic corps had been declared persona non grate, IRNA reported.
At the same time, Iranian Prosecutor General Hussein Masavi declared the Tudeh Party dissolved and said its activities were henceforth illegal.
In a statement released almost simultaneously with the ministry's, Masavi charged that Tudeh was working for the 'benefit of foreign powers.'
He accused the party of 'plotting to overthrow the Islamic regime of Iran,' according to a Tehran radio broadcast monitored in Beirut.
IRNA said the specific charges were 'espionage activities for the benefit of foreign powers,' illegal possession of weapons, infiltration of government agencies including the military and sabotage of industrial plants.
Khomeini, in a message broadcast by Tehran radio, commended the governmnet for its crackdown on the Tudeh Party, which included the arrest of executive committee members in addition to its leader.
The prosecutor general said the government was giving Tudeh Party members two weeks to surrender to authorities for questioning.
The Soviets were accused of 'interfering with the internal affairs of the Islamic republic through establishing contacts and taking advantage of trecherous and mercenary agents,' IRNA said.
IRNA said the foreign ministry published the names of all 18 Soviets, but the list was not immediately available.
Besides the consul, the expelled diplomats included three advisers, four first secretaries, one second secretary, two third secretaries and one non-military attache.
There was no indication of the exact number of Soviet diplomats in Iran, but analysts said the expulsion severelycut into the Soviet mission.
More than 60 Soviet diplomats have been expelled by Western nations for subversive activities since the beginning of last month, including France, Britain, the United States and Australia.
Last week the Swiss government closed the Bern office of the Soviet news agency Novosti and expelled its bureau chief for subversion.