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A quarter-century after they were taken captive in Iran, five former American hostages say they got an unexpected reminder of their 444-day ordeal in the bearded face of Iran's new president-elect. 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 Iranian captors.
"This is the guy. There's no question about it," said former hostage Chuck Scott, a retired Army colonel who lives in Jonesboro, Ga. "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 on Wednesday 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.
Roeder said he's sure Ahmadinejad was present during one of his interrogations when the hostage-takers threatened to kidnap his son in the U.S. and "start sending pieces — toes and fingers of my son — to my wife."
Iran's president-elect belonged to the group that seized the U.S. Embassy in 1979, but he played no role in either capturing or holding Americans hostage, according to friends, associates and a former hostage-taker interviewed Thursday. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hard-liner elected Iran's new president last week, initially opposed the embassy takeover, although he later dropped his opposition, an aide said. A former hostage-taker also said, "He was not part of us."
President Bush said on Thursday he wanted answers on whether Iranian President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a leader in the 1979 U.S. Embassy siege as some former hostages have said.
Several of the Americans who were held said they recognized the ultraconservative Tehran mayor -- who was elected president in a landslide on Friday -- as a ringleader in the hostage-taking.
However, two leading figures in the embassy seizure said he did not take part.
"I have no information," Bush told reporters during a briefing on the upcoming G8 summit in Scotland. "But obviously his involvement raises many questions, and knowing how active people are at finding answers to questions, I'm confident they will be found."
Bush also issued a warning to Ahmadinejad, 48, that he and European leaders would send a "strong message" to him about their concerns over
Iran's nuclear ambitions.