Reuters: The United States and its chief ally Britain have warned Iran over its possible involvement in insurgent bomb attacks in Iraq, top officials said on Sunday. Reuters
By Saul Hudson
LONDON – The United States and its chief ally Britain have warned Iran over its possible involvement in insurgent bomb attacks in Iraq, top officials said on Sunday.
Iran denies meddling in Iraq and says the accusations against it are psychological warfare tied to efforts by Washington and London to report Tehran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions over its nuclear program.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said this month there was evidence that Iran or its Lebanese Hizbollah allies were the source of sophisticated technology used in roadside bombs, known as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), that have targeted British soldiers in southern Iraq.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday that Washington had warned Tehran over the issue.
“We have tried to deliver a message … about this issue of IEDs in southern Iraq,” Rice told reporters during a visit to London for talks with Blair.
“We have channels with which to do it. But we use them sternly and pretty specifically to deliver messages.”
The United States has no formal diplomatic ties with Iran but occasionally talks to the government through Swiss diplomats in Tehran or through the Islamic republic’s ambassador to the United Nations in New York.
Iran says Britain has presented no evidence linking it or Hizbollah to insurgent activity in Iraq, an argument disputed by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.
“What we have presented to the Iranians is evidence which in our judgment clearly links the improvised explosive devices which have been used against British and other troops mainly in the south of Iraq to Hizbollah and Iran,” he told BBC radio.
“We look to the Iranians to desist from anything they have been involved with in the past and to use their very considerable influence with Hizbollah to ensure this continued use … stops in Iraq.”
Hizbollah has also denied any links to the Iraq bombs.
Blair has said the Iraq bombings may have been an attempt by Iran to intimidate Britain over its tough stance in talks to limit Tehran’s use of nuclear technology.
Tensions between Tehran and London were exacerbated by deadly explosions in southwestern Iran on Saturday which some state media blamed on Britain.
Two homemade bombs placed in garbage bins and detonated three minutes apart killed four people and injured more than 80 in the oil city of Ahvaz.
The British Embassy in Tehran issued a statement condemning the blasts, the latest in a string of attacks this year in Khuzestan province, the heartland of Iran’s oil industry.
“There has been speculation in the past about alleged British involvement in Khuzestan,” the statement said.
“We reject these allegations. Any linkage between the British Government and these terrorist outrages is certainly without foundation.”
Asked about British involvement in the bombings, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said the matter was under investigation.
“Unlike the British we are not going to express our views without the necessary investigations,” spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a weekly news conference.
Asefi added that Tehran was keen to return to the negotiating table with the European Union over its nuclear program but would not agree to the EU’s key demand that it halt all nuclear fuel activities before talks can resume.
“The (U.N. Security) Council cannot be used as a Sword of Damocles against Iran,” he said. “We cannot be threatened by referral.”
(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Tehran)