Denmark in talks with allies on possible Iran sanctions over attack plot

But Danish PM and EU say response to alleged plan to kill Iranian opposition figures should not undermine nuclear deal

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen arrives for an EU summit at the Europa building in Brussels on October 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Francois Walschaerts, Pool)
Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen arrives for an EU summit at the Europa building in Brussels on October 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Francois Walschaerts, Pool)

Denmark said Wednesday it was consulting with its allies about possible sanctions against Iran after accusing Tehran of plotting an attack against Iranian dissidents living in the Scandinavian country.

“We are going to reach out to our European allies in the coming days to try to find a united response,” Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen told reporters during a meeting of Northern European leaders in Oslo.

British Prime Minister Theresa May expressed her support for Denmark at the meeting.

Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen was to begin contacting his European counterparts on Wednesday to discuss possible sanctions against Iran — most likely economic ones, a diplomatic source told AFP.

“We want to preserve the nuclear agreement,” Lokke Rasmussen said, referring to how possible sanctions would approach the 2015 international accord meant to rein in Iran’s nuclear program.

Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen gives a press conference in Copenhagen, on October 30, 2018. (Martin Sylvest/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP)

That sentiment was echoed by the European Union, who condemned the alleged assassination plans but insisted the incident should not undermine Europe’s support for the beleaguered nuclear deal with Iran.

“We deplore any threat to EU security and take every incident extremely seriously, and therefore we stand in solidarity with the member state concerned, in this case Denmark,” Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, told reporters.

US President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Iran accord — known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — in May, slamming it as a bad deal that did not sufficiently curb Iranian nuclear work and reimposing punishing sanctions on Iran.

The EU and the three European signatories to the deal — Britain, France and Germany — have been trying to keep the deal alive.

Kocijancic insisted efforts to save the deal did not mean the EU was overlooking other issues such as Iran’s ballistic missile program and interference in regional conflicts.

“But we believe that the JCPOA, which has a very clear aim, needs to remain in place because it is an element of security, while other issues need to be addressed with all seriousness in parallel,” she said.

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, from left, wait for the start of prior to a bilateral meeting as part of the closed-door nuclear talks with Iran at a hotel in Vienna, Austria, Friday, July 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

The comments from Danish and EU came after Israeli officials said earlier Wednesday the Mossad intelligence service provided its Danish counterpart with information concerning the alleged Iranian plot.

According to Israel, the Mossad gave Denmark the information about the Iranian plan to kill three Iranians suspected of belonging to the anti-regime Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz.

The Danish Security and Intelligence Service — known as PET — would not confirm the Israeli claim, saying only that it “cannot comment further on the ongoing investigation.”

Israeli officials have repeatedly stated that the Mossad not only is responsible for preventing attacks against Israeli targets, but also provides intelligence to Israel’s allies around the world.

Denmark on Tuesday announced it was recalling its ambassador to Iran after the Danish intelligence service PET accused the Iranian intelligence service of planning the attack.

ASMLA is a separatist group that advocates an Arab state in a southwestern Iranian province. Tehran calls it a terrorist organization.

A Norwegian of Iranian origin was arrested on October 21 for allegedly planning the attack and spying for Iran.

Iran has denied the allegations, saying they were part of a European conspiracy against the Islamic Republic.

NATO allies

Tehran summoned the Danish ambassador on Wednesday, foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said.

“In this meeting the (senior foreign ministry) official strongly denied the biased reports on a foiled attack plot on an Iranian dissident in Denmark and its attribution to the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Ghasemi said.

In late September, Tehran accused Denmark, the Netherlands and Britain of “hosting several members of the terrorist group” that Iran holds responsible for an attack in the mainly ethnic Arab city of Ahvaz in southwestern Iran.

Bahram Ghasemi, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, gives an interview with AFP in the capital Tehran on October 2, 2018. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

The September 22 attack, during which five commandos opened fire on a military parade, left 24 people dead.

The so-called Islamic State jihadist group and a separatist Arab group claimed responsibility, and Iran staged several operations in Iraq and Syria in response.

In this photo provided by the Iranian Students’ News Agency, ISNA, Iranian armed forces members and civilians take shelter in a shooting during a military parade marking the 38th anniversary of Iraq’s 1980 invasion of Iran, in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, Iran, Sept. 22, 2018 (AP Photo/ISNA, Behrad Ghasemi)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that Washington stood behind Denmark, a NATO ally.

In Oslo for a meeting of the Nordic Council, Northern European leaders were prudent.

“We’re working on a concrete response. We’ve said that we will react,” Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said.

“We are following this very closely together with our Danish friends and when we know more we will make a decision about possible measures,” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said.

Judah Ari Gross and AP contributed to this report.

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