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Tue 18 Oct 2011 03:23 PM

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Britain freezes assets of Iranians over Saudi plot

Five implicated in alleged $1.5m scheme to assassinate Saudi ambassador to the US

Britain freezes assets of Iranians over Saudi plot
London said it was acting under the Terrorist Asset-Freezing Act 2010

Britain froze the assets of five Iranian men over the alleged plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the US in a bomb attack.

They include both men charged in the case, Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, and Gholam Shakuri, according to a statement released by the Treasury in London on Tuesday. The others were named as Hamed Abdollahi, 51, Abdul Reza Shahlai and Qasem Soleimani, 54.

The Treasury said it was acting under the Terrorist Asset-Freezing Act 2010.

The US Justice Department accused Iran on Oct. 11 of sponsoring a plot to assassinate the Saudi envoy, Adel Al- Jubeir, in Washington. The announcement has led to an escalation of tension between the two Gulf nations, with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal saying Oct 13 that the “dastardly act” reflects Iran’s policies and his country will hold Iran “accountable for any action taken.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters in Tehran today the US allegation is “baseless” and “aims to create a rift” between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the top two producers in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and regional rivals.

Arbabsiar, a US resident with dual US and Iranian citizenship, conspired for several months in the murder-for-hire plot with Shakuri, Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a criminal complaint unsealed Oct 11.

Shakuri was a member of Iran’s Quds Force, the US said in the complaint. Others from the Quds Force in Iran were also involved and helped bankroll the plot, which was to have cost $1.5m, prosecutors said.

The US State Department has described the group as an arm of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which conducts “covert operations abroad” and has sponsored attacks against US coalition forces in Iraq.

While Shakuri remains at large, Arbabsiar was arrested on Sept 29 as he departed a flight from Mexico at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. He is being held without bail.

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