News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqBritain blames Iran for soldiers' deaths

Britain blames Iran for soldiers’ deaths

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Daily Telegraph: Britain blamed Iran yesterday for a spate of roadside bomb attacks that killed at least eight British soldiers in the past six months. A senior diplomat said technology used in the devices was similar to that given by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to the Hizbollah movement in Lebanon. “All of the British deaths are linked to Iranian technology,” he said, abandoning the usual Foreign Office reserve. Daily Telegraph

By Anton La Guardia, Diplomatic Editor

Britain blamed Iran yesterday for a spate of roadside bomb attacks that killed at least eight British soldiers in the past six months.

A senior diplomat said technology used in the devices was similar to that given by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to the Hizbollah movement in Lebanon.

“All of the British deaths are linked to Iranian technology,” he said, abandoning the usual Foreign Office reserve.

The official said Iran’s motive for stirring violence in Iraq was to “tie down” US and British troops to reduce the prospect of military action against Iran.

It was also seen as a warning to Britain to ease the political pressure over Teheran’s nuclear programme.

“It would be entirely natural that they would want to send a message of ‘Don’t mess with us’,” said the official. “It is not outside the policy parameters of Teheran.”

Similar accusations have been made by Iraqi politicians and the Bush administration, but only hinted at by Britain.

Now the Foreign Office appears to have decided to be more confrontational.

A statement from the Iranian embassy last night said: “The stability of Iraq is of paramount importance to Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran has always taken position against insurgency and violence in Iraq.”

It said Iran had complained of “British forces’ support and link with some terrorist elements who crossed the Iranian border and were behind some explosions in southern parts of Iran”. It gave no further details.

Such acrimony is a far cry from the days when Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, sought to develop close ties with the clerical regime and described Iran as “an emerging democracy”.

Relations with Iran have broken down because of the crisis over its nuclear programme, and the sweeping away of reformists in Teheran with the election of the hardline new president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iran helped establish Hizbollah, which pioneered suicide car bombings against Israeli, American and French targets in Lebanon in the 1980s. It was also responsible for a spate of kidnappings of westerners.

British officials say the use of shaped charges – a way of packing explosives to penetrate armour – in Iraq had been developed by Hizbollah with Iranian help.

“It is not Hizbollah that woke up one day and said let’s give this to the Iraqis. It is the Iranians who decided to do it,” said the British official.

Roadside bombs in southern Iraq killed two British soldiers in May, three in July, and three in September.

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