London (UPI) Oct 06, 2005
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has issued a stark warning to Iran not to interfere with Iraqi affairs, after the British ambassador to Iraq accused the Islamic republic of supplying explosive devices to Iraqi militia for use against British troops.
If Iran's activities were intended as a reprisal for the recent declaration of the country's non-compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Britain would not be intimidated, he said.
Speaking in London with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani Thursday, Blair denied Wednesday's allegations against Iran were pre-meditated or officially sanctioned.
However there was evidence to suggest that a type of explosive device used in deadly attacks against British troops "and elsewhere in Iraq" did originate in Iran, he said. He did not say whether the device had also been used against U.S. troops.
Blair's remarks came in response to questions regarding accusations by an "unnamed British official" that appeared in the national press Thursday.
The official in question was the current British ambassador to Iraq, William Patey, two separate and well-informed sources told United Press International.
Downing Street had indeed had no prior knowledge the claims were to emerge in the media, one source said.
Their publication was the result of "cock-up rather than conspiracy," the source said, having been relayed by the ambassador to media during a technical briefing that went further than was intended.
It had not been an attempt to "send a message" to Tehran, the source insisted.
The ambassador told press that a type of sophisticated roadside bomb -- which releases a projectile capable of penetrating armored vehicles when an infra-red beam is triggered -- had been used in attacks that have killed eight British soldiers and two security guards since May.
The device was designed and manufactured by the Iranian-sponsored guerrilla group Hezbollah and channeled to Iraq via Iran, he said.
Patey said that Iran's interference in Iraq could be related to Britain's role in efforts to take the country to the United Nations Security Council over its suspected nuclear weapons activities.
"It would be entirely natural that they would want to send a message 'Don't mess with us'," he said.
"Iran's motives certainly don't seem that benign. If Iran wants to tie down the coalition in Iraq, then that is consistent with supplying insurgent groups."
He said Iran was providing assistance not only to their co-religionist Shia militants but to Sunni insurgents too. "There is some evidence that Iranians are in contact with Sunni groups."
Patey specifically blamed the smuggling of the bombs to Iraq on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, a military organization answerable to Iran's highest executive body, the national security council. It is headed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a former commander of the IRGC who recently took over from the moderate former president, Mohammad Khatami.
Quizzed over the allegations, Blair cautioned that it was not yet proven that the devices had originated in Iran.
It was clear that there had been new devices used, the particular nature of which led them to be traced either to "Iranian elements" or to Hezbollah, he said.
There were also "certain pieces of information" which led back to Iran, he added.
Blair sent a stark warning to Iran to stay out of Iraqi affairs.
"The British forces are in Iraq under a United Nations mandate today. They are there with the support of the United Nations-backed Iraq government.
"There is no justification for Iran or any other country interfering in Iraq; neither will we be subject to any intimidation in raising the necessary and right issues to do with the nuclear weapons obligations of Iran under the (International) Atomic Energy Agency treaty."
Blair denied suggestions that Britain had been "leant on" by the White House to bolster efforts to take Iran to the U.N. Security Council over its suspected weapons activities.
This was a matter that the British government had been concerned about for some time and was related exclusively to British interests, he said.
However the confrontation is certain to increase tensions over Iran's suspected nuclear program.
For the past two years Britain along with France and Germany (the so-called EU3) have been energetically engaging with Iran in an effort to persuade the country to comply with its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The United States insists Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons; a claim Iran denies.
Relations took a turn for the worse with the election in June of the hardline President Ahmadinejad, and Iran's rejection in September of a nuclear deal offered by the EU3. Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush were further dismayed by what they saw as a confrontational speech by the Iranian president at the last month's U.N. summit, dashing any hopes a deal could be resurrected.
Iran threatened reprisals after the International Atomic Energy Agency voted to refer Tehran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. However interference in Iraq was not specifically mentioned.
Tehran has vehemently denied the recent allegations, insisting it is opposed to the insurgency in Iraq.
The Iranian embassy in London said it was "noteworthy" that the accusations were made at a time when Tehran had, "relying on authentic proof," protested against the involvement of British undercover agents in a series of recent explosions in southern Iran.
Britain had presented no proof for the allegations, the embassy's statement added.
In Tehran, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi, denounced the accusations as "a lie."
He said in a statement released by the ministry: "Britain's conspiracies have been revealed and its scandals in Iraq have made London make up this lie."
Asefi asked the British to present their proof, adding, "for sure there is no document because the British themselves are the cause of continuation of insecurity and instability in Iraq and a source of crisis in that country and are trying to blame others for what they do."
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Iraqi Leader Warns Early Pullout Of Coalition Troops 'Catastrophic'
London (AFP) Oct 06, 2005
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani warned Thursday that an early pullout from Iraq by the US-led military would be "catastrophic", as British Prime Minister Tony Blair said British troops would stay for as long as necessary.
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