UK: Slay plot an escalation of Iran's terror ties

October 13, 2011 - 9:10 AM

LONDON (AP) — The alleged plot to kill Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S. marks an escalation of Iran's sponsorship of terrorism overseas, Britain's foreign secretary said Thursday.

William Hague told lawmakers that Britain was working with the U.S., Saudi Arabia and others to agree on a tough international response to the purported plan to assassinate the envoy in a bombing while he dined at his favorite Washington restaurant.

FBI Director Robert Mueller says many lives could have been lost in the plot to kill Saudi envoy Adel Al-Jubeir.

A U.S. criminal complaint accuses two Iranian suspects of hiring a would-be assassin in Mexico — who also was a paid informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and told U.S. authorities about the details of the plot.

Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old U.S. citizen who also holds an Iranian passport, was charged along with Gholam Shakuri, who authorities said was a Quds Force member and is still at large in Iran.

"This would appear to constitute a major escalation in Iran's sponsorship of terrorism outside its borders," Hague told the House of Commons on Thursday. "We are in close touch with the U.S. authorities and will work to agree an international response, along with the U.S., the rest of the EU and Saudi Arabia."

Britain had previously accused Iran of supplying weaponry and assistance to attacks against U.K. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and of arming other militias in the Middle East.

Hague said Britain was aware of "indications that this deplorable plot was directed by elements of the Iranian regime, with the involvement of senior members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp's Quds Force."

In Vienna, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister accused Tehran of "murder and mayhem" and said his country was working on a "measured response" to the alleged Iranian attempt to assassinate Riyadh's ambassador.

"We will not bow to such a pressure," Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters. "We hold them accountable for any action they take against us."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement he was "greatly concerned" about the news from Washington and added that Germany was relieved U.S. authorities thwarted the plot.

Germany "calls upon the Iranian government for a comprehensive explanation of the allegations. Those who took part in the attack plans and their backers must be held accountable," Westerwelle said.

Britain is working with allies to agree on new sanctions — likely to include travel bans and asset freezes — against those linked to the plot. However, diplomats have indicated Britain would not support any calls for military action.