Iran has angrily denied US accusations that it plotted to kill the Saudi ambassador, saying Washington was mounting an offensive to try to sow discord between Tehran and its Arab neighbours.
Officials in Tehran called the allegations, made on Tuesday by the FBI and the US Justice Department, a “prefabricated scenario” and “stupid mischief” meant to divert attention from US woes at home and in the Middle East.
Washington’s accusation in turn drew one from Iran that Israel, with US support, was behind the killings of at least two of its nuclear scientists in the past two years.
Ali Akbar Javanfekr, a press advisor to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told AFP late on Tuesday: “This is a prefabricated scenario to turn public attention away from domestic problems within the United States.”
He added that “the US government and the CIA have a lot of experience in diverting public attention from domestic problems in the United States.”
Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaee, sent a letter to UN leader Ban Ki-moon and the UN Security Council strongly condemning “this shameful allegation” which he said was “a well-thought evil plot” by Washington.
He also accused Israel, with US backing, of carrying out the murders of Iranian nuclear scientists.
A spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry called the US accusation “false” and “a ridiculous scenario that aims to create divisions by enemies of Islam and of the region.”
The speaker of Iran’s parliament, Ali Larijani, said on Wednesday that the allegations were a “childish game” and “stupid mischief,” maybe meant to isolate Iran from its Arab neighbours.
The Americans “want to divert attention from the problems in the region,” he said, according to the Mehr news agency and other Iranian media.
“Maybe they are seeking to create an artificial crisis and problems among regional countries,” he said.
The US authorities said two Iranians — one also holding US citizenship — were part of a plot “conceived, sponsored and directed from Iran” and involving Iranian government factions, to kill Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir in a bomb attack.
US Attorney General Eric Holder said “the United States is committed to holding Iran accountable for its actions” in the alleged plot.
The United States and Iran have been foes for more than 30 years, ever since Islamic students took US diplomats hostage in their embassy in Tehran after Iran’s revolution.
The United States has already imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran, on top of ones agreed by the United Nations, to pressure it to halt its nuclear energy programme that Washington fears is being used to build atomic weapons, despite Tehran’s repeated denial.
Saudi Arabia, the United States’ key ally in the Middle East along with Israel, has frosty ties with Iran, a fellow OPEC member which it sees as attempting to become a regional superpower.
Iran has criticised Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia this year for lending military forces to Bahrain to help the tiny Gulf kingdom’s Sunni regime put down pro-democracy protests by members of the Shiite majority.
Saudi Arabia early this month accused Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, of having a hand in clashes between Shiite protesters and security forces in its Eastern Province.