Iran sternly warned over alleged murder plot in US
(BRUSSELS) - Iran got stern warnings of possible retaliation from the European Union and the United States Wednesday after Washington detailed an Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the US.
In Brussels, the European Union voiced "grave concern", saying that, if confirmed, the plot "would constitute a major breach of international law with serious international implications."
"We call on the government of Iran to fully cooperate with the US justice system," Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU chief diplomat Catherine Ashton, told a news briefing.
"We have taken note with grave concern the information that was provided by the US Justice Department regarding this alleged participation of two Iranian individuals in a plot to murder the Saudi ambassador to the US, and alleged involvement of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps," she said.
"We trust the US justice system will rapidly bring full clarity to this alleged criminal act," she added.
US Vice President Joe Biden was even blunter, serving notice that Tehran would be "held accountable" and would face international condemnation for the foiled assassination.
"It is is an outrageous act, where the Iranians will have to be held accountable," Biden told ABC television's "Good Morning America" programme.
"The first thing we do is make sure the entire world and all of the capitals in the world understand what the Iranians had in mind," Biden said.
He called the alleged plot "an outrage that violates one of the fundamental premises, which is the safety and sanctity of diplomats."
"We're in the process of uniting world public opinion continuing to isolate and condemn their behavior," the US vice president said.
There was no official word from Riyadh, but a former chief of Saudi intelligence cited overwhelming evidence that Iran was behind the plot and said it must "pay the price".
"The burden of proof is overwhelming... and clearly shows official Iranian responsibility for this. Somebody in Iran will have to pay the price, whatever the level of these persons is," Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal told a conference on oil in London.
The prince, who has also served as Saudi ambassador to the United States and Britain, said the alleged plan to kill the kingdom's current ambassador in Washington was "so criminal, it's beyond description".
But Iran dismissed the US claims as "mischievous".
"America has launched a mischievous scenario. But be certain, they will apologise (to Iran) in the future," Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told reporters after a cabinet session, Iran's Arabic-language Alalam channel reported.
Salehi joined Iranian government officials and lawmakers in stressing that Tehran had no part in the plot, which they saw as a ploy to divert attention from US woes at home and in the Middle East.
The Iranian foreign ministry summoned the Swiss charge d'affaires to "strongly" protest the US claims.
The Swiss mission in Tehran handles US interests as Washington has had no diplomatic ties with Iran for more than three decades.
"America has launched this diversion because of its internal problems," Salehi said, adding that Iran's relations with Saudi Arabia were "good."
US authorities said Tuesday that two Iranians -- one also holding US citizenship -- were part of a plot "conceived, sponsored and directed from Iran" to kill Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir in a bomb attack.
The alleged plot involved detonating a bomb at a restaurant he frequented, an act which could also have claimed the lives of countless of innocent patrons.
Iran's state television website report, quoting an unnamed official, countered: "Since the victory of the Islamic revolution, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been the main victim of terrorist actions by terrorist groups which are supported by America."
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