Iran ready to ‘investigate’ assassination charges
By Thomas Erdbrink,
TEHRAN — Iran is ready to “investigate” U.S. charges that its elite Quds Force plotted to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Monday, while continuing to deny any Iranian involvement.
“We are ready to patiently investigate any issue, even if it is fabricated,” Salehi told the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency. “We also asked America to give us the information related to this scenario.”
Salehi and other Iranian officials nevertheless continued to maintain that Iran had nothing to do with the alleged plot, which has seriously increased tensions with the United States and its regional ally, Saudi Arabia. The request for documents seemed aimed at punching holes in the U.S. allegations, which Iranian officials have dismissed as a “bad Hollywood script.”
In a television interview Monday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he loved the American people and did not understand why some wanted war with Iran.
“I think there are some people in the U.S. administration that want this to happen, but there are also wise people who know that it wouldn’t be in the U.S. interest,” Ahmadinejad told the al-Jazeera satellite network.
He denied any Iranian involvement in a “terror plot,” charging that the Obama administration made the allegations to divert attention from U.S. economic problems.
“Why has the U.S. administration leveled this accusation?” Ahmadinejad asked. “If they are under the impression that by doing this they can create a conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, they are sorely mistaken. The truth will be revealed in the end.”
Saudi Arabia’s U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Y. Al-Mouallimi asked that the allegations be brought to the U.N. Security Council, although he didn’t specify what action his government wants. In a letter to the U.N. obtained by the Associated Press, he called the alleged plot a “heinous crime” and “gross violation” of international treaties.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Monday he has referred official Iranian, Saudi and U.S. letters on the case to the Security Council, Reuters news agency reported.
Iranian officials also demanded consular access to the main suspect in the case, Mansour Arbabsiar, 56, a used-car dealer and dual U.S.-Iranian national who is awaiting a court hearing in New York.
In an indication of increasing diplomatic pressure on Iran, the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued the latest in a series of defiant statements Monday.
“We will not retreat even one step,” he said in a speech in the western city of Paveh, according to his official Web site. “As in the past, we will also not pay any extortion money in the future.” The commanders of the Quds Force, the elite Revolutionary Guard Corps unit accused of instigating the plot, report directly to Khamenei.
The United States has said it wants to increase pressure on Iran and has started lobbying its global allies to intensify already tough sanctions against the Islamic Republic. It is unclear whether other measures also are being prepared, or whether the United States and Saudi Arabia have handed a set of demands to Iran.
On Tuesday, Britain announced it has frozen the assets of five men, including Arbabsiar, in connection with the alleged Iranian plot, the Associated Press reported. Washington has already frozen the assets of the same men.
There has been much speculation on which third country the Quds force had allegedly used to transfer money to Arbabsiar who was supposed to pay the Mexican hit man. The fact that he had assets in a bank in Britain indicates that Iran probably transferred the money through London to the United States.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, 86, was hospitalized Monday in the capital, Riyadh, where he underwent successful back surgery, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
The target of the alleged assassination plot, Adel al-Jubeir, is Abdullah’s chief foreign policy adviser.