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(Updates with comments by Obama, adds background on plot starting in fourth paragraph.)
Oct. 13 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama said a man charged with plotting to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s U.S. ambassador had “direct links” to Iran’s government, which must be held accountable for the scheme.
“There are individuals in the Iranian government who are aware of this plot,” Obama said today at a joint White House news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who is on a state visit to Washington.
Asked if there is evidence Iran’s top leaders knew of the plan, Obama said that “even if, at the highest levels, there was not detailed operational knowledge, there has to be accountability with respect to anybody in the Iranian government engaging in this kind of activity.”
The Justice Department on Oct. 11 accused Iran of sponsoring a plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S. in a conspiracy involving a secret Iranian military unit and a citizen of the Islamic Republic with a U.S. passport.
An “individual of Iranian-American descent was involved” and “had direct links, was paid by, and directed by individuals in the Iranian government,” Obama said. “This is part of a pattern of dangerous and reckless behavior by the Iranian government.”
Iran Denies Allegations
Iran’s ambassador to the UN, Mohammad Khazaee, yesterday told reporters the U.S. accusation is “a really big lie” and “doesn’t make sense.” He also accused the U.S. of setting a “dangerous precedent” in drumming up international condemnation for something he said Iran hasn’t done.
Two men were charged with conspiracy to use C-4 plastic explosives to murder Saudi Arabia’s U.S. Ambassador Adel Al- Jubeir and attack Saudi installations in the U.S. Targets included “foreign government facilities associated with Saudi Arabia and with another country,” the U.S. said in a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court.
Iran has “categorically” rejected the allegation, which it described as an “evil plot.”
Obama described what he called “a pattern of behavior” by Iran that “increasingly the international community is going to consider out of bounds and is going to continue to punish Iran for.”
The U.S. will “apply the toughest sanctions and continue to mobilize the international community” to “make sure that Iran is further isolated,” Obama said.
The alleged plot was “directed and approved by elements of the Iranian government,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Oct. 11. “High-up officials in those agencies, which is an integral part of the Iranian government, were responsible.”
Iran’s involvement in the alleged plot “constitutes a serious threat to international peace and security,” Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in an Oct. 11 letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The determination that actions are threats to international peace and security is the usual trigger for UN Security Council intervention. The conspiracy by what Rice described in the letter as “elements of the government of Iran” also violate the UN Security Council’s 2001 resolution requiring all nations to “refrain from providing any form of support” for persons involved in terrorist acts, she said.
--With assistance from Patricia Hurtado in New York, Seth Stern and Indira A.R. Lakshmanan in Washington and Bill Varner in United Nations. Editors: Bob Drummond, Justin Blum
To contact the reporters on this story: Margaret Talev in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org; Kate Andersen Brower in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bob Drummond at firstname.lastname@example.org