Britain defends claims linking Iran to Syria crackdown
Britain said Thursday it stood by allegations that Iran is helping Syria violently crush protests, after the British envoy in Tehran was summoned to the foreign ministry over the claims.
Iranian state television earlier reported that officials had told British Charge d'Affaires Jane Marriott that the comments by Foreign Minister William Hague on Tuesday were "based on a series of lies."
In London, a spokesman for the British Foreign Office said that following Iranian media reports it could confirm that Marriott had been summoned to the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday.
"The Charge was asked to explain recent UK statements on Iran, including on Iran's role supporting the Syrian regime in crushing protests. The UK stands by its statements," the spokesman said.
"We remain extremely concerned by the Iranian government's repression of its own people and its support for violent elements in the region.
"We have seen credible information suggesting Iran is helping Syria with the suppression of protests there, including through the provision of expertise and equipment.
"We had already raised this issue with the Iranian Charge in London."
The Foreign Office spokesman said Iran had also failed to respond to "clear evidence" of Iran's provision of arms to Taliban militants in Afghanistan, adding that it had already referred the matter to the United Nations for investigation.
Hague said in a statement to British lawmakers on Tuesday that Tehran was providing material for President Bashar al-Assad's government as it violently suppresses protests against the regime.
"Iran is combining brutal suppression of opposition leaders at home with the provision of equipment and technical advice to help the Syrian regime crush protests in Syria. This is unacceptable," Hague said.
A British government official told AFP there was credible evidence that Iran had supplied Syria with riot control gear and training from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Iranian state television's website quoted an unnamed official in Iran's Foreign Ministry as saying: "These (Hague's) remarks are completely unfounded and baseless and are based on a series of lies.
"The British government does not have the qualifications to comment on other countries, as it is known for its interventionist actions and destructive role in regional developments, particularly its training of the security forces of certain countries to be used for crackdown," the Iranian official added.
The United States and Syrian opposition groups have previously accused Tehran of helping the Syrian regime, its main Arab ally, to repress the opposition, with more than 1,100 people killed since mid-March, according to rights activists.
Iran has denied the allegations.
© 2011 AFP