TEHRAN — Iran’s supreme leader on Saturday denounced allegations by the United States of an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington, suggesting they were a pretext for further building an international consensus against Iran, state media reported.
“They attempted to find an excuse by raising a meaningless and useless accusation against some Iranian nationals in America,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, speaking in the western province of Kermanshah, where he is on a 10-day official visit.
Iran has vehemently denied involvement in a plot, detailed Tuesday by U.S. authorities, in which a Texas used-car salesman allegedly directed by members of Iran’s Quds Force tried to recruit a Mexican hit man to kill Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir.
The United States has since called on its allies to help increase Iran’s diplomatic and economic isolation, saying that Tehran’s role in the alleged plot is substantiated by evidence and warrants a strong response.
Khamenei, Iran’s highest authority, was quoted by the semiofficial Fars News Agency as saying that a Western “propaganda war” is being waged against Iran and urging vigilance. He accused the United States of seeking to portray the Islamic republic as a sponsor of terrorism.
But “it didn’t work, it won’t work,” he told a gathering in Kermanshah, state TV reported. He added that the “conspiracy” had failed and would remain “ineffective, like their other measures.”
“They say, ‘We want to isolate Iran,’ ” he said. “It’s they who have isolated themselves.”
Several Iranian analysts, many of them critical of the government, have warned that even if the accusations are baseless, they are important and dangerous.
“Even if this is a fabrication, we should not ignore the consequences,” Abbas Abdi, an analyst, wrote in the Sharq newspaper, which takes a critical line against the government. “The Iraq war also started with lies. When the lies were discovered, it was already too late.”
On Friday, the Iranian mission to the United Nations denied meeting with U.S. Ambassador Susan E. Rice over the allegations, but State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland again asserted that representatives of both nations had met, Reuters reported. Such a meeting would be highly sensitive, since Iran closely monitors all official contacts with the United States and only rarely chooses to engage in direct talks.
On Saturday, Iran’s foreign minister said he hoped that Saudi Arabia would exercise caution in its response to the U.S. allegations.
“We hope that the Saudis take all precautions in dealing with the issue, because the enemy always seeks to sow discord among regional countries,” Ali Akbar Salehi said in a Saturday interview with Iran’s Radio Goftogoo (Dialogue).
Salehi added that the Saudis are wise enough not to get into such a “political game.”
Also Saturday, the Saudi U.N. mission issued a statement announcing that it had officially asked the U.N. secretary general to inform the Security Council of the alleged plot to assassinate the country’s U.S. ambassador, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The statement described the plot as a “violation of international laws, the resolutions of the United Nations and all conventions and human norms,” adding that that “all those involved in this heinous attempt must be brought to justice.”