Bloomberg: U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair today said that there is evidence tying Iran to bombings in neighboring Iraq in the first
public accusation that the Shiite Muslim country is supporting militants in Iraq. Bloomberg
U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair today said that there is evidence tying Iran to bombings in neighboring Iraq in the first public accusation that the Shiite Muslim country is supporting militants in Iraq.
“There have been new explosive devices used against British troops and elsewhere,” Blair said. “The particular nature of those devices leads us to either Iranian elements or Hezbollah that is funded and supported by Iran.
“We can’t be certain of this at this time,” he told a news conference in London with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, carried live by international broadcasters. “Obviously, we will continue our investigations” and “discussions” with Iran.
Britain’s 8,500-strong contingent in Iraq is there under a United Nations mandate “with the support of the UN-backed Iraqi government and there is no justification for Iran or any other country interfering in Iraq,” Blair said.
A senior U.K. diplomat, who requested anonymity, made the accusations in London yesterday, saying Iran and Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed terrorist group, were behind armor-piercing explosives used to kill British troops in Iraq’s Shia-dominated south, Agence France-Presse said. While the U.K. has hinted at a link between Iran and violence in Iraq before, this is first time specific allegations, which Iran denied, have been made.
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi called the accusation a “lie,” the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported today. He said the “British themselves are the cause of continuation of insecurity and instability in Iraq” and are “trying to blame others for what they do.”
By stoking violence in Iraq, Blair said the Islamic Republic may be attempting to intimidate Britain over Western demands that Iran should abandon plans for uranium enrichment, saying if “they are trying to make some point about the negotiations over the nuclear weapons issue in respect of Iran — we are not going to be intimidated on that.”
Tensions between the U.K. and Iran have been strained since the election of the new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in June and because of the crisis over its nuclear program. Blair shares the view that Iran has failed to dispel doubts that it may be building atomic bombs and the UN Security Council may have to consider sanctions. Iran maintains its activities are peaceful.
Ninety-five British military personnel have died in Iraq as a result of combat, accidents or natural causes, since the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Roadside bombs killed two British soldiers in May, three in July, and three in September, according to the Defense Ministry.
The type of bombs used in those attacks were similar to the ones favored by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, who provided the technology to a Shiite Muslim group in southern Iraq, the British official said, according to AFP.
The devices are almost impossible to detect or stop, unlike the crude, home-made bombs used by militants in the early stages of the insurgency. They’re triggered when a vehicle touches an invisible, infra-red beam and release a metal projectile capable of penetrating most of the armor-plating used by the army.
“We are very much concerned and worried about the news” that Iran may be linked to the Iraqi insurgency, Talabani said. “ I talked to some Iranian brothers and they deny it. We need more investigations.”
The President added that Iraq wants “to see an end to the presence of multinational forces but the action of the terrorist are keeping them there.”
A pullout “would be a catastrophic to the people of Iraq and the cause of democracy, and would be a win for the terrorists,” Talabani said. “A timetable will only help” the insurgents, he added.