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France freezes assets of Iranian intelligence over alleged bomb plot

France has frozen assets of Iran's intelligence services and two Iranian nationals after linking them to a t...

Posted: Oct 3, 2018 1:25 PM
Updated: Oct 3, 2018 1:25 PM

France has frozen assets of Iran's intelligence services and two Iranian nationals after linking them to a thwarted plot to attack a conference held by an Iranian opposition group on French soil.

"An attempted attack was foiled at Villepinte on June 30. This extremely serious act which targeted our territory could not remain unanswered," a joint statement by France's Economy, Interior and Foreign Ministries said on Tuesday.

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"France has taken targeted and proportionate preventive measures and has frozen assets belonging to Mr. Assadollah Asadi and Mr. Saeid Hashemi Moghadam, Iranian nationals, as well as Iran's intelligence services," the statement added.

In July, two Belgian nationals of Iranian origin were arrested for allegedly planning to attack a gathering organized by the Iranian exile group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) in Villepinte, outside Paris.

Special police units intercepted the suspects' Mercedes in Sint-Pieters-Woluwe just outside Brussels. They found 500 grams of triacetone triperoxide (TATP), an explosive material, and an ignition mechanism in a small toiletry bag, according to Belgian authorities.

Amir S., 38, and his wife Nasimeh N., 34, were arrested on charges of "attempted terrorist murder" and the preparation of a terrorist offense, according to a July 2 joint statement by the Belgian Federal Public Prosecutor and the Belgian Federal Intelligence and Security Agency.

The statement added that a diplomat at the Iranian Embassy in Vienna, a "contact person" of the couple identified as Assadollah A., was also arrested in Germany. Germany approved the diplomat's extradition to Belgium.

German authorities said the diplomat "cannot cite diplomatic immunity" because he was on holiday outside his host state of Austria.

Iran has rejected the allegations. "The entire story is a plot and scenario aimed at spoiling the good and developing relations between Iran and Europe," Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said, according to a report in Iran's state news agency IRNA on Tuesday.

"Rejecting accusations and allegations again, Iran strongly objects to detention of an Iranian diplomat and urges his urgent freedom," he added.

France is party to the Iranian nuclear deal, which the Trump administration withdrew from in May. European countries, including France, have tried to salvage the deal, conducting intensive talks with Iranian officials in recent months.

Mujahedeen-e-Khalq advocates for regime change in Iran. It was on the US State Department's terror list from 1997 to 2012 over the killing of six Americans in Iran in the 1970s and an attempted attack on the Iranian mission to the United Nations in 1992.

Around 25,000 people attended its June conference in Villepinte, according to Belgian authorities.

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