Monday, October 17, 2005

Tehran-London tensions escalate

In a first in Islamic republic of Iran's history, an Iranian president has accused England of involvement in terrorist operations in Iran. Ahmadinejad's accusations seem to be in retaliation for the remarks made by British Prime Minister Tony Blair who said earlier this month there was evidence that Iran or Hizbollah was the source of sophisticated technology used in roadside bombs, used against British soldiers in Iraq. Reuters reports:

TEHRAN/LONDON (Reuters) - Iran said on Sunday Britain was behind deadly bomb attacks in Iran, sharply raising tension after Washington backed British charges that Tehran helped Iraqi militants kill eight of its troops.

Five people were killed in twin bombings in southwest Iran on Saturday. "We are very suspicious about the role of British forces in perpetrating such terrorist acts," the ISNA student news agency quoted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying.

"Our people are used to these kind of incidents, and our intelligence agents found the footprints of Britain in the same incidents before," Ahmadinejad said during a cabinet meeting. "We think the presence of British forces in southern Iraq and near the Iranian border is a factor behind insecurity for the Iraqi and Iranian people," he added.

Britain, which has more than 8,000 troops in southern Iraq, has denied any link with the two bombs in the oil city Ahvaz, which injured more than 80, and with the string of attacks this year in Khuzestan province, the center of Iran's oil industry.

...Ahmadinejad's remarks raised tension between Tehran and London to new heights. Relations were already sensitive because talks between Iran and Britain, France and Germany on Iran's controversial nuclear program broke down in August.

Britain and the United States have accused Iran or the Tehran-backed Lebanese group Hizbollah of providing military expertise to Iraqi insurgents behind attacks on British troops in southern Iraq...