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Thursday
Oct132011

Obama: Iran 'Will Pay a Price' for Assassination Plot

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Barack Obama said Thursday that Iran will "pay a price" through sanctions and international pressure for its recent hostile behavior including the alleged Iran-directed plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. in Washington, D.C.

Echoing previous statements by top U.S. officials, Obama said that when dealing with Iran, "We don't take any options off the table," but did not make any mention of possible military action in favor of pushing harsh economic sanctions and corralling international condemnation of Iran's alleged action.

Obama declined to comment on whether he believed the highest levels of the Iranian government were aware or involved in the alleged plot, but said even if the Iranian president or supreme leader did not have "detailed operational knowledge, there has to be accountability with respect to anybody in the Iranian government engaging in this kind of activity."

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Tuesday the DEA and FBI had disrupted a plot "conceived, sponsored and...directed from Iran" to murder the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. in or outside a crowded Washington, D.C. restaurant which potentially would have been followed up by bombings of the Saudi Arabian and Israeli embassies. The U.S. said an Iranian-American, 56-year-old Manssor Arbabsiar of Corpus Christi, Texas, was working for elements of the Iranian government -- specifically Iran's elite military unit the Quds force -- when he attempted to hire hitmen from the feared Zetas Mexican drug cartel to carry out the hit, but Arbabsiar was unwittingly speaking to a DEA informant from the start.

The U.S. Treasury Department announced Tuesday sanctions against five Iranians allegedly tied to the plot and additional sanctions Wednesday against an airline company allegedly linked to the Quds force. U.S. representatives began Wednesday meeting separately with members of the United Nations Security Council as part of the American government's effort to "unite world opinion" against Iran, in the words of Vice President Joe Biden.

A lawyer for Arbabsiar has not returned requests for comment, but the man's wife, Martha Guerrero, said he was wrongly accused.

Iranian officials have strongly rejected the U.S. accusations, calling them a "fabrication." The head of the Iranian mission to the United Nations penned a letter Tuesday to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressing "outrage" at the allegations.

The case, called Operation Red Coalition, began in May when Arbabsiar unwittingly approached a DEA informant seeking the help of a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, according to counter-terrorism officials.

Officials said Arbabsiar is now cooperating with prosecutors and federal agents in New York, where the case has been transferred.

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