Iran leaders react to U.S. assassination plot accusations

Laura Rozen
The Envoy

Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on Monday said he would ensure his country's cooperation in "seriously and patiently" investigating American claims that elements of Iran's Qods Force had conspired to assassinate the Saudi envoy to Washington.

"We are prepared to examine any issue, even if fabricated, seriously and patiently, and we have called on America to submit to us any information in regard to this scenario," Salehi said in announcement cited by the official IRNA new agency, according to a Reuters report.

Salehi's comments came a day after Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei defiantly warned against any action by the West against his country.

"Despite the high military, security, propaganda and sanctions pressure, the Islamic Republic is proud not to back down even an iota during the past 32 years," Khamenei said in a televised speech to university students in Iran's western Kermanshah province Sunday, Reuters reported. "The Iranian nation and its officials will not yield to the enemies' blackmailing and pressure."

Khamenei also accused the West of making the explosive allegations of an Iranian-linked plot to kill the Saudi envoy as part of a "vicious" strategy to sow discord between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. Iran is the predominant Shiite power in the region, while Saudi Arabia the leader of the Sunni axis in the Arab world.

"Dividing Shiite and Sunni Muslims is a strategic policy of foreigners . . . to reach their vicious hegemonic goals," he charged, IRNA reported.

The venue for the Khamenei's remarks--in Iran's Kermanshah province, near the border with Iraq--is perhaps notable; it's also where the chief suspect named by the U.S. in the alleged plot, Iranian-American former Texas used car salesman Manssor (or Mansour) Arbabsiar, is from. He returned there after leaving Texas in 2010.

In his remarks Sunday, Khamenei also indirectly warned Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against overstepping his authority, saying that Iran could abandon its presidential system in favor of a parliamentary one. Iran is currently due to hold presidential elections in 2013.

"Presently, the country's ruling political system is a presidential one in which the president is directly elected by the people, making this a good and effective method,'' Khamenei said, Agence France Press reported. "However, if one day, probably in the distant future, it is deemed that the parliamentary system is more appropriate for the election of officials with executive power, there would be no problem in altering the structure.''

The Envoy reported last week that Iranian Qods Force Commander Abdul Reza Shahlai, whom Treasury Department officials had identified as a key figure in the alleged assassination plot, had been previously accused by the United States of coordinating a sophisticated attack in Karbala, Iraq, in 2007 that killed five U.S. troops.

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