Bloomberg: Iran accused U.K. agents of involvement in two bomb blasts that killed four people in the country’s main oil region yesterday, just 10 days after Britain blamed the Islamic republic for stirring up attacks against its troops in Iraq. Bloomberg
Iran accused U.K. agents of involvement in two bomb blasts that killed four people in the country’s main oil region yesterday, just 10 days after Britain blamed the Islamic republic for stirring up attacks against its troops in Iraq.
The blasts, which injured 86 people, are the third series of bombings to hit Iran’s southwest province of Khuzestan, the country’s largest oil producing region, since June. The British Embassy in Iran rejected the Iranian accusations. No group has so far claimed responsibility for yesterday’s bombs.
“Most probably those involved in the explosion were British agents who were involved in the previous incidents in Ahvaz and Khuzestan,” Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Hossein Mousapour told state-run Mehr news agency today.
Diplomatic tension between Tehran and London has been mounting since U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair said Oct. 6 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. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is meeting Blair in London today to discuss Iran’s nuclear program and find ways to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons.
“There has been speculation in the past about alleged British involvement in Khuzestan. We reject these allegations,” the British Embassy in Iran said today in a statement. “Any linkage between the British Government and these terrorist outrages is completely without foundation.”
The embassy expressed its “revulsion at and condemnation of the terrorist attacks,” said the statement, which was posted on the Embassy’s Web site.
Hours after Iran accused the U.K. of involvement in the bombings, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw stepped up pressure on Iran over its involvement in Iraq. The U.K. has evidence that “clearly links” Iran with improvised explosive devices used in southern Iraq against British troops, Agence France Presse reported, citing comments made by Straw to reporters in London.
Iran has rejected the British accusations.
Iran holds the world’s second-largest oil reserves and is the second-largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Khuzestan has witnessed unrest in recent months that the government attributes to ethnic Arab separatists. Iran’s ethnic Arabs, the majority in Ahvaz, make up 3 percent of the country’s population.
In early September, a series of bomb blasts in Khuzestan halted crude transfers from onshore wells. In June, one week before the country’s presidential election, six people died after a series of explosions in Ahvaz. At least another five died in ethnic clashes in April amid riots sparked by alleged plans to change the area’s ethnic makeup.
The U.K., along with Germany and France, has led European attempts to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors next meets Nov.24. The U.S. is hoping to reach consensus before then with France, Germany, and the U.K. — as well as Russia — on how to proceed with regard to Iran’s nuclear program.
Rice met yesterday with her Russian counterpart before heading to London.
Russia, which is a key partner in Iran’s nuclear program, providing the bulk of assistance and know-how in construction of the Iranian civil nuclear plant at Bushehr, remain opposed to referring Iran to the United Nations Security Council for alleged violations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Sergei Lavrov said yesterday in Moscow.
Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s second-largest oil company, which recently completed the development of Iran’s Soroush and Nowruz oil fields, won’t comment on the security situation in Iran or the decline of relations between London and Tehran, said Andy Corrigan, a London-based spokesman for Shell.
Iranian state television in August reported that the country’s authorities had arrested an unspecified number of separatists alleged to have links to British intelligence services based in Southern Iraq, near the border with Iran.
Most of Iran’s crude oil reserves are in Khuzestan, which is located close to the border with Iraq and to the Persian Gulf. The province is also home to two of the country’s largest undeveloped oil fields — the Azadegan and Yadavaran deposits.
Iran has given Chinese state oil company China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. a 50 percent stake for the development of the Yadavaran oil field. Inpex Corp., Japan’s biggest oil explorer, was awarded a $2 billion contract for the Azadegan oil field in February, 2004.
Shijiharu Yadima, Inpex’s spokesman in Tehran, wasn’t immediately available to comment, his office said.
The eight-year war with Iraq, which ended in 1988, severely affected Iran’s oil production, particularly in Khuzestan where much of the fighting took place. As a result, Iran’s production capacity has dropped to about 4 million barrels a day currently from 6 million a day in 1974.