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UK and Iran tit-for-tat bomb claims

London Evening Standard | October 17 2005

Britain and Iran have traded accusations about state involvement in terrorist activities.

The British Government dismissed as "completely without foundation" suggestions by the Iranian leadership that UK forces were involved in twin bombings that killed five people and injured more than 100 in south-western Iran on Saturday.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday night said he suspected Britain played a role in the attacks, which tore into a shopping centre in Ahvaz, in Khuzestan province.

The ISNA students news agency quoted him as saying: "We are very suspicious about the role of British forces in perpetrating such terrorist acts."

But in a statement, the British embassy in Tehran expressed shock at the attacks, adding: "The British Government condemns all terrorist activity unequivocally. There has been speculation in the past about alleged British involvement in Khuzestan. We reject these allegations. Any linkage between the British Government and these terrorist outrages is completely without foundation."

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 also denied that charge.

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

Earlier, however, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw underlined suspicions that Iran had a hand in bomb attacks on British troops in Iraq.

Last week Prime Minister Tony Blair said there was evidence the attacks in southern Iraq led back to Iran. His remarks followed the disclosure by a senior UK official that the sophisticated bombs that killed eight British soldiers were supplied by the Hezbollah terror movement via the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Speaking in London, Mr Straw said: "What we have presented to the Iranians is evidence which, in our judgment, clearly links the improvised explosive devices which have been used against British and other troops, mainly in the south of Iraq, to Hezbollah and to Iran."

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