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Iran Claims "British Agent" Arrested Over Ahwaz Bombings

Majlis member for Ahwaz City Nasser Soudani claims that a British agent has been arrested in connection with Saturday's bombings in the Arab-populated city.

In an interview with the Fars news agency, Soudani alleged that the man had been trained in Iraq by "foreign agents, led by treacherous and criminal Britain."

The Majlis (parliament) National Security and Foreign Policy Committee has said it is investigating the circumstances surrounding the bombings. The interior, intelligence, and foreign ministers and the national police chief are also scheduled to hold a meeting on Tuesday to investigate the bombings.

However, the hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has pre-empted the outcome of the investigations, telling the ISNA news agency: "We are very suspicious about the role of British forces in perpetrating such terrorist acts. Our people are used to these kind of incidents, and our intelligence agents found the footprints of Britain in the same incidents before. We think the presence of British forces in southern Iraq and near the Iranian border is a factor behind insecurity for the Iraqi and Iranian people."

An editorial in the pro-government Kayhan newspaper claimed the bombers were "British soldiers" who had bungled the bombings, detonating the bombs in rubbish bins before they had a chance to deploy them at targets within the city.

The Iranian government has previously accused the British government of responsibility for the June bombings in Ahwaz City, but has also blamed the US, Canadian and Saudi governments as well as the Shell Oil Company and the opposition Mujahideen-e-Khalq. The regime claimed that it had the culprits for the June attacks in custody, but has not named or placed charges against the accused.

Nasser Bani-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "Whoever is responsible for the bombings does not have the best interests of the Ahwazi Arabs at heart. This was an attack on a shopping centre after iftar in an Arab-populated city and most of the victims are likely to have been Arab civilians. Moreover, such attacks usually lead to an increase in state violence against the indigenous Ahwazi Arab population.

"It is likely that the attacks were carried out by the regime or elements within the security forces who are seeking the fuel confrontation between the Iranian and British governments. Blaming the British enables the regime to divert attention from its nuclear programme and its involvement in Iraq and also gives it an excuse to step up the repression and forced displacement of the Ahwazi Arabs.

"We completely condemn all terrorism, whether by opposition groups or the government; nearly all terrorist acts in Iran are carried out by the regime and pro-government militias. Ahwazis experienced the brutality of the Iran-Iraq War and would not favour a foreign occupation of their homeland. They want social justice, autonomy and an end to ethnic cleansing by the regime. The international community should support the Ahwazi people instead of looking on while they are forced from their homes at gun-point."