Austria strips Iranian of diplomatic status over bomb plot arrest

Tehran has called the arrests a 'false flag ploy' because of its timing as Iran president Hassan Rouhani, pictured with Swiss president Alain Berset, tours Europe. (Reuters)
Updated 03 July 2018
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Austria strips Iranian of diplomatic status over bomb plot arrest

  • Diplomat arrested in Germany in connection with a suspected plot to bomb an Iranian opposition group’s meeting in France
  • Two suspects in Belgium were intercepted by Belgian police on Saturday with 500 grams of the homemade explosive TATP and a detonation device found in their car

VIENNA: Austria is stripping an Iranian of his diplomatic status after he was arrested in Germany in connection with a suspected plot to bomb an Iranian opposition group’s meeting in France, the Austrian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.
Two suspects in Belgium were intercepted by Belgian police on Saturday with 500 grams of the homemade explosive TATP and a detonation device found in their car, Belgian authorities said.
The diplomat, 46-year-old Assadollah A, was arrested in Germany, suspected of having been in contact with the two arrested in Belgium, the statement said.
Three other people were also arrested in France in connection with the case, two of whom were released.
“The Iranian diplomat will be denied diplomatic status within 48 hours because of the existence of a European arrest warrant,” Austria’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The ministry summoned the Iranian ambassador on Monday to help clarify the situation around the diplomat’s arrest, it said.
Iran has denied a plot to blow up the opposition meeting and called the arrests a “false flag ploy.”
Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani as well as former European and Arab ministers attended last weekend’s meeting of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) — an umbrella organization of opposition groups in exile that seek an end to Shiite Muslim clerical rule in Iran.


US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

Updated 19 April 2019
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US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

  • A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend
  • The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group

KABUL: The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan expressed disappointment on Friday after the collapse of a planned meeting between the Taliban and a group of Afghan politicians in Qatar that exposed some of the deep divisions hampering efforts to end the war.
A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend. The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group, which included some government officials attending in a personal capacity.
“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, said on Twitter. “I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans.”
The collapse of the meeting before it had even started, described as a “fiasco” by one senior Western official, laid bare the tensions that have hampered moves toward opening formal peace negotiations.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-born diplomat, has held a series of meetings with Taliban representatives but the insurgents have so far refused to talk to the Western-backed government in Kabul, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.
The Doha meeting was intended to prepare the ground for possible future talks by building familiarity among Taliban officials and representatives of the Afghan state created after the US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban government in 2001. A similar encounter was held in Moscow in February.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office blamed Qatari authorities for the cancelation, saying they had authorized a list of participants that differed from the one proposed by Kabul, “which meant disrespect for the national will of the Afghans.”
“This act is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan,” it said in a statement on Friday.
Sultan Barakat, director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Qatar, which had been facilitating the meeting, said there was no disagreement about the agenda.
“Rather, there is insufficient agreement around participation and representation to enable the conference to be a success,” he tweeted.
Preparations had already been undermined by disagreements on the government side about who should attend, as well as by suspicions among rival politicians ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.
The Taliban derided the agreed list of 250 participants as a “wedding party.” Some senior opposition figures who had been included refused to attend.
The Taliban also objected to Ghani’s comments to a meeting of delegates that they would be representing the Afghan nation and the Afghan government, a statement that went against the insurgents’ refusal to deal with the Kabul administration.