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Iran diplomat arrested over bomb plot against US-backed opposition

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani holds a press conference on Trump's withdrawal decision from Iran nuclear deal in Tehran, Iran on May 8, 2018 [Iranian Presidency / Handout]
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani holds a press conference in Tehran, Iran on 8 May 2018 [Iranian Presidency/Anadolu Agency]

Authorities in Belgium have said that an Iranian diplomat was among three people arrested on suspicion of plotting a bomb attack on a meeting of exiled Iranian opposition groups in France.

A joint statement by Belgian authorities said that a 38-year-old man and a 33-year-old woman had been intercepted by security agents on 30 June. The pair were suspected of planning to commit a “bomb attack” at the gathering in Villepinte, on the outskirts of Paris on Saturday, which was organised by the exiled group, National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

It’s believed that the Iranian diplomat, who has been identified as Assadollah A, was the “contact person of the couple”.

The arrest was made as Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani prepares to visit Europe for a meeting to save the Iran nuclear deal. Following the announcement of the arrests, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, tweeted that his government “unequivocally condemns all violence & terror anywhere, and is ready to work with all concerned to uncover what is a sinister false flag ploy”.

“How convenient: Just as we embark on a presidential visit to Europe, an alleged Iranian operation and its ‘plotters’ arrested,” Zarif added.

Read: Iran calls for calm after water protests, clashes

The suspected target of the plot was the NCRI meeting. The umbrella coalition is largely controlled by the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MeK), which was once listed as a terrorist organisation in the US and Europe and is still widely viewed as a Marxist-Islamist cult built around the personality of its leader, Maryam Rajavi.

Speakers at the annual meeting this year included Rudy Giuliani, former New York mayor and a lawyer for President Donald Trump. Giuliani was one of 33 senior US officials and military brass at the year’s conference on Saturday. Bill Richardson, former US ambassador to the United Nations, US energy secretary and Democratic governor of New Mexico, was also in attendance.

In his speech, Giuliani spoke about regime change in Iran and said the fall of the government in Tehran would be brought about by economic isolation. “We are now realistically being able to see an end to the regime in Iran,” Giuliani told a crowd of about 4,000, many of them refugees and young eastern Europeans who, according to the Guardian had been bussed in to attend the rally in return for a weekend trip to Paris.

Read: Trump ally Giuliani says end is near for Iran’s rulers

“The mullahs must go, the ayatollah must go, and they must be replaced by a democratic government which Madam Rajavi represents,” Giuliani said. “Freedom is right around the corner … Next year I want to have this convention in Tehran!”

Stephen Harper, former prime minister of Canada, also delivered a speech advocating regime change in Iran.

Most observers of Iranian politics say the MeK has minimal support in Iran and is widely hated for its use of violence and close links to the Israeli intelligence.

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