REGION: Iran lashes out at Britain and Argentina over former ambassador’s detention
* Demands formal apology for the arrest
* Believes diplomat became ‘victim of a plot’
By Farhad Pouladi
TEHRAN: Iran has demanded a British apology for the arrest of its former ambassador to Argentina and slapped economic sanctions on Buenos Aires for issuing an international arrest warrant in connection with a 1994 bombing.
“I hope that the British government will swiftly go back on this incorrect action and apologize,” the radio quoted reformist Iranian President Mohammad Khatami as saying Sunday.
Hadi Soleimanpur was arrested in Durham, northeast England on Thursday, on suspicion of involvement in the bombing of a Jewish cultural centre in the Argentine capital that killed 85 and injured 300 when he was ambassador to the south American country.
On Saturday, the foreign ministry summoned both Argentine and British charges d’affaires, Ernesto Alvarez and Matthew Gould, to protest strongly against Soleimanpur’s arrest.
Iran told Alvarez on Saturday that it was slapping economic sanctions on Argentina over the affair.
Gould, in the absence of British ambassador Richard Dalton, was summoned again to the foreign ministry Sunday to be questioned about London’s response to Tehran’s request for the former diplomat’s immediate release, Iranian state radio said.
Soleimanpur, 47, who was attending Durham University, had been in Britain on a student visa since February last year.
One of several Iranian diplomats sought by Argentine authorities on charges of plotting the 1994 attack, he was among a group of eight for whom Argentina issued international arrest warrants earlier this month.
Britain has remanded Soleimanpur in custody until late August when a London court will rule on an Argentine extradition request. Khatami warned that the Islamic republic would never accept an extradition and “let this ugly and lying conspiracy take place”. The conservative daily Kayhan called Saturday for the British ambassador to be expelled, in an editorial headlined “British ambassador out”.
“Iranian lawmakers believe that the former Iranian ambassador to Argentina, Hadi Soleimanpur, has fallen victim to a plot (masterminded) by the triangle of evil (that is) Israel, the United States and Britain”, the English-language Tehran Times said Sunday.
Tehran has had turbulent ties with London since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The arrest of Soleimanpur is another blow to Iran’s foreign relations, which are already dogged by charges that it is secretly developing nuclear weapons and a row with Canada over the death in custody of an Iranian-Canadian journalist. —AFP
Argentina plays down Iranian decision to suspend economic, cultural ties
BUENOS AIRES: The Argentine government on Saturday played down news of Tehran’s decision to suspend diplomatic cooperation following Britain’s arrest of a former Iranian ambassador to Buenos Aires.
“We are taking it with caution,” a government source said, adding that the government was trying to avoid any escalation of a row between Argentina and Iran. London moved Thursday to detain Hadi Soleimanpour, who was Iran’s ambassador to Argentina in 1994 when suspected Islamic militants blew up a Jewish community centre here, killing 85 people and injuring 300. “We think Iran may be planning to magnify the issue, which could lead to an escalation in measures ultimately leading to a break-off of relations,” the government source told private news agency NA. The ex-ambassador has lived in Britain since February 2002 on a student visa. An Argentine judge requested his arrest on August 13, along with that of 12 other Iranians who are believed to be resident in Iran. The official Iranian news agency Irna reported Tehran’s diplomatic measure against Argentina on Saturday. Argentine business coordinator in Tehran Ernesto Alvarez was summoned to the Foreign Ministry where Americas Director General Mehdi Mohtachami told him Iran was making an “energetic” protest over the detention, Irna said. —AFP