Confusion surrounded a presumed assassination attempt on Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad today after officials denied reports that an assailant had thrown an explosive device at his convoy.
A source in Ahmadinejad's office was initially quoted by Reuters as confirming a report on the conservative website Khabaronline.ir.
That report said the president's motorcade had come under attack in the western city of Hamadan, shortly before Ahmadinejad was due to make a speech.
The Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television channel said the device had hit a vehicle carrying journalists and presidential staff traveling about 100 meters behind the president's car and that the attacker had been arrested.
Khabaronline.ir said the explosion had caused "a lot of smoke."Ahmadinejad Had Alleged 'Mercenary' Plot
The reports follow remarks Ahmadinejad made to a conference of Iranian expatriates earlier in the week in which he claimed
Israel had "hired mercenaries to assassinate me."
But Iranian media quickly went into reverse after officials issued statements refuting the initial reports. The state-run English language satellite channel, Press TV, quoted "an informed source" in the president's office as saying "no such attack had happened" -- after which Khabaronline, which is linked to the Iranian parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, removed the report from its website.
The students' news agency ISNA and Al-Alam, Iran's official Arab-language channel, reported that the explosion had been caused by a "firecracker" welcoming Ahmadinejad. The semiofficial Fars news agency backtracked by also accepting the firecracker explanation, having initially reported that a "counterrevolutionary" had been arrested for throwing what it called a homemade grenade.
Ahmadinejad made no reference to the supposed incident in his subsequent speech at a local sports stadium, which was broadcast live on nationwide TV. Out Of The Blue?
The scene of the alleged attack, Hamadan, is a relatively affluent city of around 400,000 with little history of political unrest, in contrast to areas such as the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, home to a significant Arab population, and the southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan Province, both of which have seen deadly outbreaks of violence in recent years.
There are no known reported cases of assassination attempts against Ahmadinejad, although the president claimed U.S. agents had plotted to kill him when he visited Iraq two years ago. Speeches to crowds of supporters in Iran's provinces have been a feature of Ahmadinejad's five-year tenure as he has sought to take his message directly to the people and appeal over the heads of Iran's elites.
Shahin Gobadi, spokesman for the French-based opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, denied that his organization had any connection to today's alleged incident.
"Absolutely not, absolutely not. It has nothing to do with us. I don't know what happened, but it has nothing to do with us," Reuters quoted him as saying.compiled from RFE/RL, Radio Farda, and agency reports