Thu, Oct 04, 2018 - Page 7 News List

France accuses Iran over bomb plot

RETALIATION:The government said that it was freezing the assets of two suspected intelligence operatives, and some belonging to the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence


France has accused the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence of being behind a foiled plot to bomb an exiled opposition group near the French capital in a move that risks straining already complicated ties between Paris and Tehran.

The French government on Tuesday said that it was freezing assets belonging to two suspected Iranian intelligence operatives, as well as others belonging to the ministry.

France’s decision to take retaliatory measures and go public with the accusations was taken three months after the alleged plot to bomb a meeting of the People’s Mujahidin of Iran (MEK) in a suburb of Paris.

“This extremely serious act envisaged on our territory could not go without a response,” France’s interior, foreign and economy ministers said in a rare joint statement. “In taking this decision, France underlines its determination to fight against terrorism in all its forms, particularly on its own territory.”

A French diplomatic source said that the security forces had concluded that “the head of operations at the [Iranian] intelligence ministry ordered it.”

Iran immediately denied any involvement, as it did in July when the MEK accused it of being responsible.

Tehran rejected the French complaint “completely and forcefully,” but said the door for discussion was open, Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said in an interview.

“If there is a misunderstanding ... about a thing that does not exist, be it a conspiracy by others or a mistake, we can sit down and talk about it,” he said.

Washington, which has been intensifying pressure on Iran, warned that “this outrageous behavior will not be tolerated” in a tweet from the US National Security Council.

The alleged bomb plot came to light two days after thousands of Iranian opposition supporters gathered at an exhibition center outside Paris on June 30.

The meeting was attended by two allies of US President Donald Trump, former US House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

The MEK was formed in the 1960s to overthrow the Shah of Iran and it continues to organize opposition to the leaders of the Islamic Republic who took power following the 1979 revolution.

Belgium announced in July that it had arrested a couple in a Brussels suburb who were suspected of preparing to drive a car packed with explosives to the French rally.

A total of six people were then detained in coordinated raids by European police, including an Iranian diplomat based in Vienna.

The diplomat, Assadollah Asadi, was targeted by the asset freezes announced by French authorities, along with Saeid Hashemi Moghadam, who the French diplomatic source said is head of operations at the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence.

Asadi is set to be extradited to Belgium to face trial, German authorities said on Monday.

“We deny the accusations and forcefully condemn the Iranian diplomat’s arrest, and call for his immediate release,” a statement from the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said earlier on Tuesday.

The measures come as French President Emmanuel Macron and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are at odds over a host of issues.

Macron, who hoped to improve ties with Tehran at the start of his presidency last year, has allied with Iran over the 2015 nuclear deal which limits the Islamic Republic’s atomic program.

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