Iran gives UK deadline over ex-ambassador

Tehran has warned the British government to justify the arrest of its former ambassador within 72 hours or risk a break in bilateral relations.

    Former ambassador and student, Sulaymanpour's arrest may lead to break in relations

    In a telephone call between the two countries’ foreign ministers, Kamal Kharazi warned Jack Straw of the consequences, according to an source.

    Kharazi told Straw that Iran was intent on having Hadi Sulaymanpour freed and did not fear straining already poor relations.

    Tehran has already used as much diplomatic muscle as it can muster to bring about Sulaymanpour’s release, cutting economic and cultural ties with Argentina on Saturday after a judge there pushed for the former Iranian ambassador’s extradition from the UK.

    British police arrested the former diplomat, currently studying at Durham University, when Buenos Aires asked for his detention in connection to a 1994 bombing of a Jewish institution there.

    "It is hard to understand the attitude adopted by the government of Iran to stop economic and cultural relations between the two countries"

    Argentinian foreign ministry statement

    The Argentine judge is also seeking the extradition of seven other Iranians over the AMIA Jewish Community Centre car bomb that killed 85 and wounded 200.

    Politically motivated case

    Iran is concerned that the timing of the release of old police files in various countries coincides with moves to increase pressure on Tehran over its nuclear development dispute with the US and Israel.

    But despite repeated denials, the United States and Israel claim Iran was behind the 1994 attack.
    Explaining why the case resurfaces ten years later, President Nestor Kirchner said it was a "disgrace for all Argentines" that the case had not been solved.

    Kirchner ordered the release of secret files on the bombing from the intelligence services last June, when he came to power.

    Cutting relations’s inside source said Iran was not afraid of freezing economic and cultural relations with the British government, as it has done with Argentina.

    The arrest of the first Iranian in the AMIA bombing case spurred sharp words from Iranian President Muhammad Khatami.

    Relations between Jack Straw (L)
    and Kamal Kharazi at all time low

    On Sunday, the president said his government would take strong action, and’s contact said it was Khatami himself who insisted on putting a Friday deadline on British cooperation.

    Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Ahani met British Foreign
    Secretary Jack Straw in London on Tuesday, a spokesman for Straw told AFP. 

    "This case is political, not judicial," said Iranian government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh adding that "some parts of the US government and Zionists are behind this."

    But a British diplomat in Tehran said although he appreciated the seriousness of Iran’s demand, London was unable to involve itself in a judicial process, adding, evidence presented by Argentina last week had to be considered.

    Argentine reaction
    Following the arrest of Sulaymanpour last Thursday, Argentina’s foreign ministry also issued a statement lamenting “political declarations absolutely outside the realm of the judicial nature of the cause".

    "It is hard to understand the attitude adopted by the government of Iran to stop economic and cultural relations between the two countries," Argentina's Foreign Ministry said.

    The ministry added that the government is "fully committed to a quick and total clarification of the case" and expects Iran to collaborate with Argentinian justice.
    The call for Sulaymanpour’s arrest may cost the South American country hundreds of millions of dollars in farm exports such as wheat.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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