18 October, 2005

Iran-UK Relations Threatened as New Bomb is "Discovered"

Calls from hardliner supporters of the Iranian regime to cut relations with the UK grew on Tuesday, while security forces claimed they had foiled an attempt to blow up the Kianpars bridge in Ahwaz City.

Before the security forces had a chance to complete their investigations, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused London of being behind the weekend bombings in the Arab-dominated city of Ahvaz. However, the British government has condemned the bombings, which killed six people and injured around 100 in a busy shopping centre and the British Charge d'Affairs to Tehran, Kate Smith, denied any link to the attacks.

The bomb packade supposedly discovered under Kianpars bridge on Monday contained eight anti-personnel mines, around a kilogram of TNT, one stun grenade and a large number of fuses. Police claimed they successfully defused the bomb.

As yet, no group has claimed responsibility for the weekend's Ahwaz City bombings. Nasser Soudani, a Majlis (parliament) member for Ahwaz City, claimed on Monday that a British soldier had been arrested and confessed to carrying out the bombings. The claim was later denied by the authorities and the judiciary. Justice Minister Jamal Karimi-Rad said police had yet to make any arrests, but alleged that "the ones who have committed these crimes in the country have been supported by foreign states." However, on Tuesday, Minister of Information Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei said that over 20 suspects had been arrested.

A spate of bombings in Ahwaz City in June was claimed by a number of small exiled Ahwazi separatist groups, but eventually a group calling itself the Mohi-eldain Martyrs Guerrillas - which was disbanded in the 1980s - released a video showing the explosions and claiming responsibility. However, reformist presidential candidate Mustafa Moin suggested the attacks may have been the work of those seeking the election of a military hardliner, such as Ahmadinejad.

The government claimed that it had arrested those responsible for the June bombings, but has not named the suspects or brought them to trial. It accused a variety of governments for directing the attacks, the latest being Canada, but has failed to provide any evidence to substantiate its allegations.

An editorial in Kayhan, a newspaper whose editor-in-chief is appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for the closure of the British embassy in Tehran and "eventually sever ties."

Nasser Ban-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "The situation in Iran was bad under Khatami, but Ahmadinejad is prepared to go even further to silence dissent, militarise Iranian society and extend Iranian influence through intimidation and violence. No-one should have any illusions about him. He is a military man who has worked in the secret services and who was directly responsible for the murder of Kurdish dissidents in Europe. He has proven that he will go to any lengths to achieve the tasks he has been given by the mullahs.

"There are strong suspicions that the Ahwaz bomb attacks were carried out by the government to isolate Britain, distract attention from Iranian support for terrorism, undermine the Ahwazi opposition and give an excuse to break off talks over its nuclear ambitions."

 
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