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Britain Blasts Iran Claim of Terror Support

Iranian policemen prevent protesters from attacking the British Embassy in Tehran, during an anti-British demonstration, 04 Nov 2010

British authorities are dismissing Iranian state TV claims that four Kurdish men accused of carrying out assassinations are linked to Britain.

Iran's intelligence ministry is claiming to have broken up a cell of Kurdish terrorists with alleged links to the British spy agency. Iranian TV said four Kurds responsible for a number of assassinations inside Iran since 2008 are under arrest.

Tehran's Press TV said the four confessed to be working on orders from Jalil Fattahi, a Kurdish militant believed to be living in the United Kingdom. Iranian officials said Britain not only has funded terrorists groups, but also is spying inside Iran.

The British Foreign Office said the charge of supporting terrorism was part of a "long line of slurs" against Britain.

A British government statement said the charges are just the latest in a long history of baseless Iranian allegations. It added that Britain does not support or encourage terrorist activity in Iran, or anywhere else in the world.

Iran's intelligence ministry said the four under arrest belong to the Kurdish rebel group Komala. One of the men, identified as Bakhtiar Memari, claims to have received weapons from a Komala representative in Iraqi Kurdistan to carry out the assassinations.

Looking haggard and speaking softly, Memari complained that he was being turned into a scapegoat. He insists that he is not the only guilty party, and he is being forced to shoulder the blame for others outside the country who also should be punished.

Political science teacher Houchang Hassan-yari, of Canada's Royal Military College, said Iran's military establishment is blaming Britain because it is Tehran's standard practice to finger "outside forces and outside enemies for everything bad that goes on inside the country."

University of Birmingham Professor Scott Lucas, who writes about Iran in the popular blog Enduring America, said he thinks Iran is "deliberately targeting Britain, rather than the United States, due to approaching nuclear talks."

Lucas added, "They are on the verge of a resumption of nuclear talks with the United States ... So, beyond the headlines of the propaganda and the heated rhetoric, there is actually a more pragmatic undercurrent which points to Iran edging towards discussions with Washington ..."

Announcement of the arrests came amid government-organized celebrations to mark the 31st anniversary of the student takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Iranian TV showed demonstrators chanting "death to America" in front of the old U.S. Embassy compound.

Despite the anti-U.S. chants, protesters did not appear to burn U.S. flags this year in what observers say could be a rare nod of approval to Washington for adding an Iranian militant group to its terrorist list.

An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman welcomed the U.S. decision to label the Sunni Baluch rebel group Jundallah a "terrorist organization." The spokesman said fighting terrorism is a general responsibility of all nations, and the U.S. move is the right decision.