Tony Blair issues Iran warning over Iraq

Tony Blair has issued a strongly-worded warning to Iran not to interfere in Iraq, following claims that the Islamic republic has been supplying weapons to insurgents to attack British troops.

The Prime Minister confirmed roadside bombs used to kill eight British soldiers in a series of attacks in southern Iraq were of a type known to be used by Iran and the Tehran-backed Hizbollah. However, the Iranians dismissed the British accusations as "baseless" and demanded the Government produce the evidence to back up its allegations.

Mr Blair insisted Britain would not allow itself to be pressurised by Iran into giving up its demand that Tehran should abandon its nuclear fuel enrichment programme, amid fears that it is trying to develop a bomb.

He denied that Britain was turning the spotlight on Tehran at the behest of the White House, which has long taken a more hardline stance on Iran than Britain and other European powers.

On Wednesday, a senior British official disclosed that the sophisticated devices involved in the attacks on British troops, using armour-piercing explosives and infra-red triggering mechanisms, appeared to have come from Hizbollah via Iran.

Speaking in Downing Street following talks with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Mr Blair said that while the British authorities had information which appeared to link the devices to Iran, he could not be sure of the connection.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw later disclosed that the Government was seeking talks with the Iranian authorities to resolve the issue. However, Mr Talabani sought to play down Iranian involvement in his country, insisting Iraq wanted good relations with Iran, the Scotsman reports.

The Iranian ambassador in London, Seyed Mohammad Hossein Adeli, also dismissed the British accusations as "baseless". He also dismissed suggestions that Tehran was seeking to put pressure on Britain over the ongoing negotiations surrounding Iran's controversial nuclear programme.

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