The man behind the French-Iranian crisis is known by some people as a talented, respectable embassy translator.
To others, Wahid Gordji is a dangerous Iranian militant allegedly responsible for the deaths of dozens of Westerners in a series of terrorist attacks in France and elsewhere.
Soft-spoken and clean-shaven, Gordji is a suave and demure man of about 30. He has been the official interpreter at the Iranian embassy in Paris for three years -- and for the last month, the pawn in a tense war of nerves between France and Iran.
The crisis peaked Friday when Paris upstaged an Iranian ultimatum to cut ties and broke diplomatic relations with Tehran. Several hours later, Iran also broke relations.
Although considered the No. 2 man at the Iranian embassy, France says he does not have diplomatic status.
In April, after wiretaps and careful surveillance, French police decided to question him in connection with a series of bombings in September 1986 that killed nine people and injured 120 others.
Gordji has also been linked to an Iranian militant network operating in Europe, dealing in arms and organizing terrorist attacks and is suspected of involvement in the 1985 hijack of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro.
He refused to be questioned and took refuge in the Iranian embassy in Paris, prompting the authorities to order a police cordon around the building June 30. He is still there -- safely and legally out of the grasp of French law because the authorities have steadfastly declined to breach international law and enter the building.
Gordji has lived in France since the mid-1970s. His father was a doctor for Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini during his four months of exile in France in the late 1970s.
In spite of his youth, Gordji's excellent command of French and knowledge of both Iranian and French culture caught the attention of his country's embassy, and he was hired as the embassy interpreter in 1984.
Abolhassan Bani Sadr, ex-president of Iran, said Gordji 'served as intermediary when Iran procured spares in France for anti-ship missiles ready for deployment in the gateway to the (Persian) Gulf at the Strait of Ormuz.'
'Mr. Gordji was hired for the dirty work, arms sales, hostage negotiations, discussions on the situation of the refugee oppostion in France,' said Bani Sadr.
But despite his reputation, Iranian sources in Paris said Gordji's privileged contacts with French government officials and businessmen caused consternation in Tehran, where he was interrogated during a trip in March about his 'un-Islamic' and 'corrupted' behavior.