COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Denmark has on Tuesday voiced its suspicion that an Iranian intelligence agency was attempting to conspire to assassinate an Iranian-Arab opposition figure on its soil.
Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen speaks during a press conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, October 30, 201
The alleged conspiracy that the Danish Foreign Minister said he believes is behind the Iranian government itself, prompted the Nordic country to demand new EU-wide sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
A Norwegian citizen with an Iranian background was arrested on 21 October in Sweden in connection with the conspiracy and extradited to neighboring Denmark, the Swedish security police said.
The Norwegian has denied the indictment and the Iranian government has denied any connection with the alleged plot.
The attack targeted the leader of the Danish arm of the Arab Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA), Danish intelligence chief Finn Borch Andersen said.
ASMLA is seeking a separate state for ethnic Arabs in the Iran-producing southwestern province of Khuzestan. Arabs are a minority in Iran, and some see themselves as under Persian occupation and want independence or autonomy.
"We are dealing with an Iranian intelligence agency planning an attack on Danish soil, and of course we can not and will not accept it," Andersen said at a press conference.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi rejected the allegations. "This is a continuation of the plans of enemies to damage Iranian relations with Europe at this critical time," the Tasnim news agency quoted him as saying.
The EU is trying to save the 2015 Great Power Agreement with Iran, which is restricting its nuclear activity in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions following the US withdrawal from the Pact and the reintroduction of far-reaching fines for Tehran.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen called the planned attack "completely unacceptable" and said that British Prime Minister Theresa May had expressed her support for Denmark during a meeting in Oslo.
Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said at a press conference that he believes the Iranian government was behind the attempted attack.
Call for EU sanctions
"In the light of recent developments, Denmark will now call for a debate in the EU on the need for further sanctions against Iran," Samuelsen said. The Danish Ambassador in Tehran had been recalled for consultations, Samuelsen added.
"We congratulate the Danish government for its arrest of an Iranian murderer," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a tweet. "We urge our allies and partners to address the full range of Iranian threats to peace and security."
Andersen said that the arrested Norwegian citizen denied the indictment in court of a foreign intelligence service in Denmark.
On September 28, the Danish police opened two major bridges in a nationwide police operation and stopped ferry connections from Denmark to Sweden and Germany to prevent a potential attack.
A few days earlier, the Norwegian suspect had been observed photographing and watching the ASMLA leader's Danish home, police said.
In November 2017, Ahmad Mola Nissi, an Iranian exile who founded ASMLA, was shot dead in the Netherlands. The Danish Security Service then reinforced police protection for the ASMLA leader in Denmark and two of his staff.
Last month, Iran summoned the embassies of the Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom for a raid on a military parade in Khuzestan, killing 25 people, on 22 September.
Iran accused the three countries of hosting Iranian opposition groups.
Another Arab opposition group, Ahwaz's National Resistance, and the Islamic State militant group saw responsibility for the parade attack, although none of them had provided conclusive evidence to support their claim ,
Last week, diplomatic and security sources said France expelled an Iranian diplomat for a failed conspiracy to launch a bomb attack on a rally in the Paris area by an exiled Iranian opposition group.
Reporting by Emil Gjerding Nielson, Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Teis Jensen with additional coverage by Stine Jacobsen and Terje Solsvik, BozorgMore Sharafedin in London, John Irish in Paris; Edited by Mark Heinrich