Iran summons Italian ambassador over arms-smuggling arrests
Iran has summoned the Italian ambassador over the arrest of two Iranians accused of involvement in smuggling weapons to Iran, the Fars news agency reported Friday.
One of the Iranians was said to be the Rome correspondent of the Iranian state television network IRIB, Hamid Massouminejad. Another was reportedly a member of the Iranian secret service.
They were detained on Wednesday, along with several Italians, dpa reported.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told Fars that the Italian envoy was asked by Tehran to explain the arrests. The spokesman said the arrest of the IRIB correspondent indicated the "start of a new game with still ambiguous aims."
But in Rome Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini rejected "Iranian insinuations that the recent arrests ordered by the Italian judiciary had an instrumental intent."
Frattini said in a statement said that the judiciary was abiding by the principles of the rule of law in Italy, and thus had acted independently of political and government institutions.
The arrests were made in relation "to an inquiry on arms trafficking and a violation of international norms," Frattini said.
"It's an exaggerated Iranian reaction, it's clear that the arrests are linked to an investigation which, obviously, is being carried out independently by Italian magistrates," he added in Cordoba, Spain, where he arrived Friday for a meeting of EU foreign ministers.
According to Italian media, Italians and other foreigners have been illegally exporting weapons to Iran, which is under an international arms embargo.
Police reportedly had nine arrest warrants although it was unclear how many people were actually arrested.