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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 October 2018

Iranian diplomat suspected in France bomb plot to be sent to Belgium

Tehran has called the plan a 'false flag' operation

A bomb disposal expert is seen searching a car in the Brussels' commune of Woluwe St Pierre, June 30, 2018. RTL Television. TV Picture taken June 30, 2018. Reuters
A bomb disposal expert is seen searching a car in the Brussels' commune of Woluwe St Pierre, June 30, 2018. RTL Television. TV Picture taken June 30, 2018. Reuters

France and Germany will send two men, one an Iranian diplomat, to Belgium to face accusations they were involved in a plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally on the outskirts of Paris, judicial sources said on Wednesday.

Belgium is investigating two Belgians of Iranian origin who were arrested on Saturday, the day of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) meeting. Five hundred grams of a homemade explosive and a detonation device were found in their car.

Iran said it had nothing to do with the plot, which it called a “false flag” operation staged by figures within the opposition group .

The exiled Iranian opposition group’s meeting was attended by US President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who gave a speech calling for the removal of Iran’s government.

In addition to the two people arrested in Belgium, an Austria-based Iranian diplomat was held in Germany, and a man of Iranian origin was held in France. Judicial authorities in France and Germany told Reuters Belgium had requested their extradition.

“It’s extremely sensitive and the Belgians are taking the lead,” said a European intelligence source.

During a visit by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Vienna on Wednesday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Mr Rouhani had assured him that he would work to clarify the case.

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French officials said the nature of the incident is unclear.

Highlighting the political sensitivities, Iran summoned France’s ambassador to protest against the staging of the opposition meeting. Tehran “strongly protested against the French support of activities of the terrorist organisation,” referring to an exiled opposition group.

Since the United States withdrew in May from a 2015 deal to lift sanctions on Iran in return for curbs to Tehran’s nuclear programme, the deal’s European signatories Britain, France and Germany have said they want to save the accord.

Iran has called on the European countries to offer economic benefits to make up for the damage caused by new US sanctions.

Any suggestion that Iranian authorities were behind the plot in France could make it politically difficult for leaders, especially French President Emmanuel Macron, to continue to back the nuclear deal.

The Austrian foreign ministry said on Tuesday it was stripping the diplomatic status of the diplomat arrested in Germany. Iran’s foreign ministry has rejected the allegations against the diplomat as baseless.