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Iran Media: German Diplomats Involved In December 'Riots'

An opposition supporter gestures next to a burning police motorcycle set on fire during clashes with security forces in Tehran on December 27.
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- An unnamed Iranian intelligence official said today that German diplomats were involved in antigovernment clashes last month, Iranian media reported.

State broadcaster IRIB quoted the official as saying two German diplomats were detained during the December 27 "riots" but gave no further details on their fate.

The comments come a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tehran was running out of time if it wanted to avoid further sanctions over nuclear work the West suspects is aimed at making bombs.

Iran denies the charge and has accused the West, especially the United States and Britain, of helping to foment the street unrest that erupted after June's disputed presidential election.

In the most serious violence since the aftermath of the June poll, eight people were killed in clashes between opposition supporters and security forces on Ashura, the holy Shi'ite day of ritual mourning that fell on December 27.

"A deputy intelligence minister announced the involvement of German diplomats in the riots during Ashura," ISNA news agency said, giving no details. A German Embassy spokesman in Tehran was not immediately available for comment.

IRIB quoted the official as saying on its website: "During these riots two German diplomats...were detained."

An Iranian prosecutor said on January 9 that a German citizen arrested during Ashura had been released, but gave no details.

The reformist opposition says the vote, which was followed by huge opposition protests, was rigged to secure hard-line President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's reelection. The authorities deny the charge.


Officials have portrayed the protests as a foreign-backed bid to undermine Iran's Islamic system of government.

"The Ashura riots were pre-planned and elements of the sedition movement, antirevolutionary forces and networks linked to foreign intelligence were present," ILNA news agency quoted the intelligence official as saying.

On January 4, Iran said several foreigners conducting "psychological warfare" against the clerical system were arrested during the Ashura clashes.

The intelligence official also said that according to documents and confessions obtained from a detained adviser of opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi, the adviser had "links with some European intelligence networks."

Iranian authorities have repeatedly accused opposition leaders of links to "foreign enemies," warning that they will not tolerate any more antigovernment rallies.

Despite this, Internet messages have been circulating about new protests on February 11, when Iran marks the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed shah.

The accusations of German involvement in the Ashura protests came a day after German engineering conglomerate Siemens said it would reject any further orders from Iran as world powers consider imposing new sanctions on Tehran.

Germany, one of six countries seeking to persuade Iran to suspend its atomic work, is one of the biggest exporters to Iran despite three rounds of modest United Nations sanctions.

Iran ignored a U.S. end-2009 deadline to respond to an offer from world powers of economic and political incentives in exchange for halting enrichment or face more sanctions.