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U.K. 'U-Turn' On Iran Bomb Claims

London (UPI) Jan 06, 2006
British parliamentarians and soldiers' families have accused the government of making politically motivated accusations that Iran was involved in killing troops in southern Iraq, after government officials reportedly admitted there was no evidence for doing so.

Prime Minister Tony Blair warned Iran in October 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.

However government officials have now reportedly acknowledged that there is no evidence, or even credible intelligence, connecting the government in Tehran to the sophisticated bombs which have killed 10 British soldiers in the past eight months.

The apparent U-turn comes three months after Blair told a Downing Street press conference there was evidence to suggest that a type of infra-red triggered explosive device used in deadly attacks against British troops "and elsewhere in Iraq" did originate in Iran.

The allegations came at a time when the United States and Britain were locked in a tense confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program. In September, the International Atomic Energy Agency declared Iran to be in non-compliance with its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Blair issued a stark warning to Tehran to stay out of Iraqi affairs, and insisted Britain would not be intimidated in its efforts to take Iran to the United Nations Security Council.

"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."

His remarks came in response to claims appearing in the national press by an "unnamed British official," who two well-informed sources told United Press International was the British ambassador to Iraq, William Patey.

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.

Tehran vehemently rejected the accusations, which it said were politically motivated.

Blair denied suggestions Britain had been "leant on" by the White House to bolster efforts to take Iran to the U.N. Security Council.

Now, however, the families of the soldiers killed by the bombs have accused to government of using their loved ones' deaths to do just that.

Sue Smith, 44, lost her son Pte Phillip Hewett, 21, who died alongside 2nd Lt Richard Shearer and Pte Leon Spicer when their patrol was hit by an improvised explosive device at al-Amarah, north of Basra, last July.

She told the Independent newspaper: "They don't like Iran and they are using this for sympathy towards their attitudes, claiming that they were involved in the murder of our sons. I had the impression from the moment they made that statement that it was purely bully-boy tactics against Iran. It makes me really angry. They should be dealing with the people who killed our sons and not using it as a weapon. The way I look at it, it was just an excuse for another invasion. They have a foothold in the Middle East and they want to go further."

The Liberal Democrats called for an immediate parliamentary statement on Iran's alleged involvement in the Iraqi insurgency, while a former Labor defense minister, Peter Kilfoyle, accused the Blair government of following President George Bush's obsession with Iran.

"Is this intelligence or is it propaganda?" he asked. "This is what happened in Iraq. I have a deep, abiding mistrust of what is put out by the government and a deep, abiding mistrust of what is put out by the intelligence services. This is part of an almost unconscious urge to support whatever the American policy of the moment might be."

British officials will now only say that the devices were similar in design and technology to those used by the Lebanese guerilla group Hizbollah, which has ties with Iran and Syria. Military sources quoted in the Independent said that although parts for making explosive devices may have been smuggled over the porous Iran-Iraq border, there was no reliable evidence that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard were the suppliers.

A Foreign Office spokesman told UPI that the government's position had not changed and it still had concerns that Iran may have been involved. Asked if the government had any evidence for this charge other than a similarity in design to devices used by Lebanese Hizbollah, the official said the matter was still being investigated.

Source: United Press International

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Washington (UPI) Jan 06, 2006
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