Clinton urges punishment for Iran after terrorist plot
Published 13/10/2011 | 05:00
America launched an international campaign yesterday to punish Iran for an alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador after warning of a "dangerous escalation" in Tehran's sponsorship of terrorism.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged to increase Iran's diplomatic isolation and called on countries to go "the extra mile" to ensure the Iranian regime was held accountable for what she described as a "flagrant violation of international law".
Last night, the US imposed sanctions on an Iranian airline alleged to have flown members of an elite force linked to the plot.
The US Treasury said Mahan Air had transported operatives from Iran's Quds Force across the Middle East. Under the sanctions, the airline's US assets will be frozen.
"This plot, very fortunately disrupted by the excellent work of our law enforcement and intelligence professionals, was a flagrant violation of international and US law and a dangerous escalation of the Iranian government's longstanding use of political violence and sponsorship of terrorism," Mrs Clinton said.
"We will work closely with our international partners to increase Iran's isolation and the pressure on its government and we call upon other nations to join us in condemning this threat to international peace and security."
Vice-President Joe Biden added that it was "critically important that we unite the world in the isolation" of Tehran and said "nothing has been taken off the table" in terms of its response.
It is believed that the Obama administration will focus on lobbying for new diplomatic and economic international sanctions against Iran.
The US State Department has sent a cable to all American embassies and consulates around the world telling them to put the Iran case before their host governments. The cable, sent by William Burns, the Deputy Secretary of State, and classified secret, tells them to detail the evidence against Iran.
William Hague, Britain's Foreign Secretary, will today tell the House of Commons that British diplomats will launch co-ordinated efforts to secure additional sanctions against Iranian officials.
The key figures in the alleged plot were named as Manssor Arbabsiar, a naturalised US citizen holding Iranian and US passports, and Gholam Shakuri, an Iran-based member of the Quds Force.
They were accused of plotting to use explosives bought from a Mexican drug cartel to blow up Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia's ambassador in Washington. An informant in the cartel tipped off police and Mr Arbabsiar was arrested last month. Mr Shakuri, who also has ties to Iran-backed terrorist activity in Iraq and the Middle East, apparently fled before he could be picked up.
Leading Iranian officials attacked the allegations as baseless. Alireza Miryousefi, from the Iranian mission to the United Nations, sent Ban Ki-moon, the UN's Secretary-General, a letter "to express our outrage".
"The US allegation is, obviously, a politically-motivated move and a showcase of its long-standing animosity toward the Iranian nation," the letter said.
It remained unclear yesterday what motive Iran might have for trying to kill the Saudi official. (© Daily Telegraph, London)