Iran lambasts UK, US over bombings, nuke programme

TEHRAN (AP) — Tehran launched a double-barrelled diplomatic assault on Britain and America on Sunday, accusing London of possible involvement in weekend bombings that killed five people and charging that Washington was bent on hauling Iran before the UN Security Council over its nuclear programme.

Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi said he believed the Saturday blasts that tore into a shopping centre in Ahvaz were “a continuation of previous explosions that were guided from abroad,” state-run radio reported.

In June, when four similar bombings killed at least eight people in Ahvaz, a city populated mainly by Iran’s minority Arabs, Tehran blamed Iranian Arab extremists, accusing them of ties to British intelligence in neighbouring southern Iraq. Britain denied the charge.

Also Sunday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Washington was willing to skirt international law to block Iran’s disputed nuclear programme. Asefi said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was pressuring US allies in a drive to punish Tehran at the United Nations.

“It is clear to us that Rice and her country are trying to lead Iran’s case (to the UN Security Council) and away from the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency),” he said.

Asefi said Washington was trying to strip Iran of its rights as a member of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a move that threatened to sow “anarchy” in relations between states.

“Trust could only be sustained based on the implementation of international regulations and not on self-serving interpretation,” Asefi said. “The latter could create international anarchy.” Iran has repeatedly said it was willing to return to negotiations with European mediators over its nuclear programme, while insisting it maintain what it calls its right to the full range of nuclear know-how under the nonproliferation treaty.

“If Europe is serious about resumption of negotiations, there will be no objection from Iran’s side,” Asefi said.

Washington has accused Tehran seeking nuclear weapons under cover of its nuclear energy programme, a charge Iran rejects.

Russia and China have rejected Washington’s overtures to have Iran referred to the Security Council, with Moscow wanting the issue dealt with by the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA. But Rice said the Security Council option remains open “at a time of our choosing.” Britain, France and Germany have failed in two years of on-and-off talks to persuade Iran to jettison portions of its nuclear programme in exchange for economic incentives.

In Iran’s Khuzestan Province, five people died and more than 100 were wounded when bombs hidden in trash bins detonated at a shopping plaza Saturday.

Iran has previously accused Britain, which has 8,500 soldiers based across the nearby Iraqi border, of encouraging Iranian Arab separatists believed to be behind the blasts.

Last week, Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair levelled similar charges at Tehran, saying Iran was giving Iraqi insurgents explosives technology to attack British soldiers.

Both sides have denied the allegations.

“Regarding the presence of British forces alongside Iranian borders, there are some concerns about their role in the Ahvaz blasts,” Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of Iran’s parliamentary committee of national security and foreign policy, said in a report carried by the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

Britain’s embassy in Tehran released a statement condemning the Khuzestan attacks — and the accusations.

“Any linkage between the British government and these terrorist outrages is completely without foundation,” the embassy said.

Ahvaz was also the site of two days of violent protests in April after reports circulated of an alleged plan to dilute the region’s Arab majority.

A letter allegedly signed by former vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi purported to order the settlement of non-Arabs in Ahvaz so they would become the majority population. Abtahi denied writing the letter.

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