Blair accuses Tehran over Iraq bombings

Tony Blair warned yesterday he will not be diverted from the debate over Iran's nuclear programme by Tehran's suspected involvement in a series of deadly bomb attacks on British soldiers this year.

Speaking at Downing Street 24 hours after a British official pointed a finger of blame at Tehran, Mr Blair said: "There are certain pieces of information that lead us back to Iran."

Such attacks would not prevent Britain continuing to press for Iran to abandon its alleged nuclear weapons ambitions. "There is no justification for Iran or any other country interfering in Iraq," Mr Blair said. "Neither will we be subject to any intimidation in raising the necessary and live issues to do with the nuclear weapons obligations of Iran under the Atomic Energy Agency treaty."

Britain has repeatedly raised Iran's nuclear programme with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, and was last month instrumental in having the issue referred to the UN security council.

Mr Blair admitted it was not clear whether Iran or Hizbullah, the Lebanon-based guerrilla group sponsored by Tehran, was behind the supply of bombs, reports Guardian.

A senior U.K. diplomat, who requested anonymity, made the accusations in London yesterday, saying Iran and Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed terrorist group, were behind armor-piercing explosives used to kill British troops in Iraq's Shia-dominated south, Agence France-Presse said. While the U.K. has hinted at a link between Iran and violence in Iraq before, this is first time specific allegations, which Iran denied, have been made.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi called the accusation a "lie," the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported today. He said the "British themselves are the cause of continuation of insecurity and instability in Iraq" and are "trying to blame others for what they do.'

By stoking violence in Iraq, Blair said the Islamic Republic may be attempting to intimidate Britain over Western demands that Iran should abandon plans for uranium enrichment, saying if "they are trying to make some point about the negotiations over the nuclear weapons issue in respect of Iran -- we are not going to be intimidated on that."

Tensions between the U.K. and Iran have been strained since the election of the new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in June and because of the crisis over its nuclear program. Blair shares the view that Iran has failed to dispel doubts that it may be building atomic bombs and the UN Security Council may have to consider sanctions. Iran maintains its activities are peaceful.

Ninety-five British military personnel have died in Iraq as a result of combat, accidents or natural causes, since the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Roadside bombs killed two British soldiers in May, three in July, and three in September, according to the Defense Ministry, informs Bloomberg.

Photo: the AP P.T.

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