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Iran regime fails evidence test on Ahwaz bombings

The Iranian regime has blamed Britain for this week's Ahwaz bombings and claimed that the British intelligence services had armed and trained the bombers, but has refused to disclose any evidence or take any diplomatic action.

It is the third time Iran has blamed Britain for bombings in Ahwaz. Following the June and October 2005 bombings in the city, senior Iranian officials said they had evidence in the form of confessions and documents that proved British complicity and had arrested British agents involved in the bombings. However, the regime has not published any proof or convicted anyone of involvement in terrorism, despite rounding up and detaining hundreds of Ahwazis including tribal leaders and intellectuals. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has also failed to take any action against the British embassy in Tehran, which continues to operate despite the severity of the allegations.

Ahmadinejad this week accused the "occupiers of Iraq" for two bombings that killed nine people in Ahwaz. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki repeated the claim that the bombings were supported by the British military from Iraq's Basra province. He said that the bombs were planted by people "who have taken souvenir pictures with British officials in London, while enjoying the intelligence facilities and the support of the British military commander in Basra." Following this week's bombings, ten people, described as local citizens "deceived by the intelligence agents of the enemies", have reportedly been arrested in connection with the recent bombings. Their names have not been released.

Mottaki appeared to play down the significance of supposed British involvement on Saturday. In a press conference on Saturday, Mottaki was quoted by the government's Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) saying that the information and evidence of British involvement in the bombings would be put "at the disposal of related British officials" and "expressed the hope to attain concrete results in that connection to prevent the occurrence of such incidents."

In relation to this week's bombings, the only people who knew about the bombings were about to occur were the President and his ministers, who cancelled their visit to Ahwaz the day before citing "heavy rain". It transpired that there was sunshine all the way from Ahwaz to Tehran. Either Iran's weather forecasters are bad at their job or the President and his government already knew the bomb attacks would occur on Tuesday and invented a lame excuse for their non-attendance. Nevertheless, Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi - accused by Human Rights Watch of leading prison massacres and serial killings of opponents - made a public visit to the city later in the week, undeterred by the threat of rain and bombs. This has raised a few eyebrows among Iran observers.

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "The Iranian regime has repeatedly accused Britain of backing terrorism in Iran, but now says it will hand the evidence to the British government. It is highly unusual for a state supposedly under terrorist attack to give its military intelligence to the alleged sponsor of terrorism. If Ahmadinejad is so certain that the British are responsible, then isn't the best place for this intelligence the UN General Assembly? Why has he not expelled British diplomatic staff from Iran if the British were such a threat to his government?

"There is no evidence to link any Western governments to the Ahwaz bombings and there is only a few hastily penned words from publicity-seeking extremists to proove 'separatist' involvement. The regime knows this and is not so foolish to take action against the British government on the basis of mere suspicion. But many are beginning to suspect the terrorists live somewhat closer to Tehran than London.

"Blaming the British and the Ahwazis is part of Ahmadinejad's psychological warfare. Blaming the British is no doubt a way of playing victim in the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme. The regime is also generating fear and hatred against a marginalised ethnic minority it alleges are in league with a foreign enemy to fuel nationalist sentiment and purge the Ahwazi Arabs from their homeland.

"The regime has lost all credibility with the Iranian people. It is weak and corrupt, so has to resort to state terrorism. Who knows what crimes such a regime is capable of carrying out?"