US keeps up pressure on Iran after plot uncovered
The United States kept up its pressure on Iran Wednesday as US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called on other countries to help isolate Tehran, dpa reported.
"Iran must be held accountable," Clinton said in remarks at a Washington-based think tank.
She urged other countries to join the United States in "condemning this threat to peace and international security."
On Tuesday, US justice officials charged two Iranians with plotting to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington using connections to an alleged Mexican drug cartel. One of the plots involved a bombing at the favourite restaurant of Ambassador Adel A Al-Jubeir.
The charges, which alleged that the Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guards had hatched the plot, have escalated tensions with Iran, which the US considers a state sponsor of terrorism.
In Iran, the charges were met with disdain. Iranian officials called it a "childish game" and "amateurish."
But some domestic experts advised Tehran not to take this "game" too lightly, and think instead about its possible consequences.
"In the case of Iraq, the US conducted a similar game in front of the United Nations - it was also ludicrous, but then it turned into a very dangerous game, turning formerly rich Iraq into a crisis zone," warned one political scientist in Tehran, who did not want his name used.
At the Pentagon, spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jim Gregory confirmed earlier remarks by a US defence official that the incident was "a judicial and diplomatic issue, and only the president gets to rule in or rule out how he uses the military."
The US State Department alerted US citizens of possible terrorist threats as they travel abroad after the plot was disrupted, and reminded them to register with US embassies as they move around the globe.
The US Treasury Department added an Iranian commercial airline - Mahan Air - to its list of sanctions in connection with the alleged plot.
"Following the revelation about the (Quds Force's) use of the international financial system to fund its murder-for-hire plot, today's action highlights further the undeniable risks of doing business with Iran," the department said in a statement.
While the direct involvement in the plot by Mahan Air was not clear, treasury officials said that the Quds Force regularly uses Mahan Air to transport people to and from Iran and Syria for military training; operatives in and out of Iraq; and weapons around the region.
On Tuesday, the treasury department froze the assets of five people alleged to have been involved in the plot and banned US persons from engaging in transactions with them.
The five included the two who were formally charged in New York federal court - Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, a naturalized US citizen who also holds an Iranian passport, and Gholam Shakuri, who was identified as an Iran-based member of Iran's Quds Force special unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard.
The other three were high officials in the Quds Force.