x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Iran blames West for deaths of protesters

Country's ambassador to Bahrain claims groups from Britain and the US were carrying out assassinations among the ranks of the opposition to fuel unrest

MANAMA // Iran's top diplomat to Bahrain has accused the US and the UK of orchestrating the assassination of protesters in Tehran, including that of the nephew of the former presidential contender and opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and the highly publicised death of Neda Agha Sultan. The ambassador, Hussain Amir Abdullahyan, claimed both were part of a western-led conspiracy to destabilise and overthrow the regime after June's controversial elections.

Mr Abdullahyan, claimed at a press conference in Manama on Monday that investigations carried out by Iranian authorities revealed that groups from Britain and the United States had infiltrated the opposition movement and were carrying out assassinations among the ranks of the opposition during unlawful protests to fuel unrest. He declined to comment on whether the Iranian government suspects any Arab involvement in the alleged conspiracy.

Ms Sultan, who was in her early twenties, was a bystander when she was shot and killed instantly last June during protests in Tehran contesting the results of the presidential elections that secured a second presidential term for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The president had run against Mr Mousavi and a fellow opposition leader, Mehdi Karrubi, who allege that the elections were rigged. A video of her dying was posted within hours on YouTube and social networking websites, causing an international outcry against the authorities in Tehran for their repression of the protests.

Last month, Mr Mousavi's nephew, Ali Mousavi, 35, was shot and killed during unrest following processions marking Ashura that also led to the deaths of at least eight others in Tehran. Mr Abdullahyan said on Monday: "When Ms Sultan was killed the assassins used three cameras to film the killing to use it for propaganda purposes, but when the authorities reviewed the films that were posted on the internet we were able to identify them and uncover the plot. Her assassination was carried out by an Iranian who came from abroad and he was the one that pretended that he was trying to revive her in the video."

"They were also behind the assassination of Mir Hossein Mousavi's nephew last month. They did not film the assassination to avoid repeating the mistake that uncovered their plot when Ms Sultan was assassinated, but the fact that reports of his death were known to the world before the Iranian authorities and Mousavi family found out is a clear indication of foreign involvement in the assassination."

Mr Abdullahyan said the types of bullets used in the two killings did not match the types used by Iran's security apparatus. He claimed that investigations also revealed that the alleged foreign conspirators' original plan called for assassinating top opposition leaders, including Mr Mousavi and Mr Karrubi, but the men's security details foiled those plans, forcing the conspirators to revert to killing people close to the opposition and organising protests.

"They had two key objectives. Some of them were targeting the regime itself while others were seeking to put more pressure on the Islamic republic to gain privileges and benefits," he said. He said that confessions obtained from people detained after the recent unrest, in which they admitted having received foreign support and directives to organise the protests, would be aired on television soon and that the authorities had shared its findings with the Mousavi family.

"The Ashura clashes marked a turning point for differentiating between the demands of the reformists and those infiltrates of the movement who violated the sanctity of Ashura [and who] were arrested, and investigations revealed their association with foreign organisations," he said. "It's clear that Mousavi had revised his position following these events." On Friday, Mr Mousavi posted on his website a statement that consisted of 18 points, some of which contained positive aspects, Mr Abdullahyan said, but the western media only focused on Mr Mousavi's comments regarding his readiness to be a martyr for the reform campaign.

Mr Abdullahyan also said his country would push ahead with enriching uranium, according to ratios that meet its scientific and research needs, if the West continues to exert pressure on Tehran and the Vienna talks to supply Iran with nuclear fuel it needs fail. "We have cooperated in the past with the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] and stopped our work and the results were not successful. We will not accept this high tone by the United States in this regard. What we need now is to have the framework to deal with Iran's nuclear programme change."

He denied that the recent border confrontation with Iraq over contested oilfields was the result of any political intentions. Mr Abdullahyan claimed that a lack of markings on the borders resulted in the confusion and insisted that it was Iraqis who had actually crossed into Iranian territory. He said the matter was being resolved by specialised border committees from the two countries. Mr Abdullahyan also said Iran was seeking to build and enhance its relations with its Gulf neighbours and that it has had no role in supporting the insurgency in northern Yemen that spilt into the southern border of Saudi Arabia.

"We believe that this matter [of insurgency] could only be resolved through dialogue and that any regional or foreign military intervention would only complicate the issue," he said. @Email:mmahdi@thenational.ae