Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has said Tehran strongly suspects Britain was behind deadly bombings in southern Iran on 15 October. The British Embassy in Tehran condemned the attacks the next day and said any charges of involvement are "completely without foundation." Britain recently accused Iran of backing insurgents and interfering in southern Iraq, charges that Iran has categorically denied.
Prague, 17 October 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The twin bombings killed six people and left 100 others injured in the southern Iranian city of Ahvaz on 15 October. Two homemade devices exploded within minutes of each other in a market in the capital of Khuzestan Province, near the border with British-occupied southern Iraq.
After a cabinet meeting the next day, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said his country is "strongly suspicious of British forces committing [such] terrorist acts." He called the presence of British forces in southern Iraq and along Iran's borders a cause of insecurity among the people of Iraq and Iran.
Ahmadinejad's allegations had been voiced earlier by other Iranian officials.
However, a spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, Hamid Reza Assefi, said it is still unclear who was behind the explosions.
"We, [unlike] the British, don't talk without proof and documentation," Assefi said. "So first the relevant intelligence and security organs should look into the documents. After [their investigation], it will become clear who was behind these explosions. But right now, we should abstain from guessing and speculation because nothing is clear yet."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said earlier this month that there is evidence that Iran or the Lebanese Hizbollah, supported by Iran, had given Iraqi insurgents sophisticated technology for roadside bombs used to attack British soldiers based in southern Iraq. British Foreign Minister Jack Straw repeated those accusations on 16 October.
Tehran has denied interfering in Iraq and said Britain has not provided evidence to support its accusations. Moreover, in April, some Iranian officials linked Britain to the civil unrest that shook Khuzestan following reports of alleged government plans to reduce the number of Arabs in the area. In June, officials said Britain might have been involved in a series of bombings in Ahvaz before Iran's presidential election. Those blasts killed eight people. Three hard-line Arab separatist groups claimed responsibility.
War Of Words
Some observers believe the latest accusations by Iranian officials might only be in reaction to the recent British accusations.
"It all shows that relations between the two countries are moving toward more differences and disagreements," said Alireza Nourizadeh, head of the Center for Arab-Iranian Studies in London. "And we can also say that Iran's nuclear case and the British stance had an influence in turning the misunderstandings into real differences."
Mohammad Reza Jalili, a professor of international politics at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, said it is likely that Iran's recent accusations against Britain are in retaliation for the hardening of the European Union's stance regarding Tehran's nuclear activities.
"Iran's nuclear issue has without any doubt created disagreements between Iran and the European countries, especially with Britain, which has a very important role in these talks," Jalili said. "Today, it seems that it is natural in international relations that [countries] use all possible tools to put pressure on the opposite side, hoping that these pressures will have a role in talks. It is possible that this is what Iran is doing."
Nourizadeh said he believes ties between Tehran and London could deteriorate even further.
"If the three EU countries find a way and resume negotiations with Iran, the war of words would decrease," Nourizadeh said. "On the other hand, if Iran's nuclear case is referred to the UN Security Council, because the Islamic government sees Britain responsible for it, it is natural that in such a case relations between the two countries will reach a point where ties will be moved to a lower level -- as we witnessed, for example, following Ayatollah [Ruhollah] Khomeini's fatwa against [author] Salman Rushdie."
Meanwhile, Iranian officials said they are investigating whether the recent blasts in Ahvaz were connected to the bombings there in June.
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