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Resources updated Wednesday, October 31, 2018

October 31, 2018

Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen speaking at a press conference on the plot

Denmark interrupted an Iranian assassination plot in the country, the Danish government said Tuesday, as it called for the European Union to respond, at a critical moment in relations between Europe and Tehran.

Danish authorities this month arrested a Norwegian citizen of Iranian descent for allegedly planning the assassination of the leader of an ethnic Arab separatist group, Denmark's Security and Intelligence services said.

The separatist organization, the Ahvaz Liberation movement, is linked to a group Iran blamed for a terrorist attack on a military parade Sep. 22 that killed 25 people. The group blamed by Iran and Islamic State both claimed responsibility.

Danish security services said the individual they arrested had denied the charges. An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman on Tuesday said Iran had no involvement in the case.

Tuesday's announcement was the latest in a series of allegations that Tehran is sponsoring acts of violence in Europe. "It is totally unacceptable that Iran or any other foreign state plans assassinations on Danish soil. Further actions against Iran will be discussed in the EU," Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said on Twitter.

European governments have been building links with Iran in an effort to sustain the 2015 multinational nuclear accord that granted the country relief from sanctions. President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the accord in May and the U.S. is set to reimpose wide-ranging sanctions on Tehran on Monday.

Denmark said Tuesday it had recalled its ambassador from Tehran for consultation.

The government gave details of a large-scale police operation on Sept. 28, when authorities closed bridges into Copenhagen and suspended train operations in connection with the case.

The individual arrested was seen in late September conducting reconnaissance and photographing the residence of the leader of the Ahvaz Liberation movement, Danish authorities said.

The authorities, who worked with foreign partners, said they believe he intended to pass information to the Iranian intelligence service to help an assassination plan against the leader of the group, known as the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz.

Security services said they had been offering police protection to the Ahvaz group's leader since the spring because of "tangible threats which...emanate from Iran."

The Danish report comes after French officials said Iran was behind an attempted attack at the annual conference of a France-based Iranian opposition group in late June.

U.S. officials have said that Iran was behind a similar plot in Albania in March and have tied Iran to the shooting last year of another senior official from the separatist group. Iran has denied those allegations.

Until now, the EU has steered clear of commenting on the Paris case or accusations that Iran was stepping up its Europe-based attacks. Denmark's announcement and its call for an EU response forces the issue onto Brussels' agenda.

"At this stage we are following the events and are in contact with [Danish] authorities to get more information," said a spokeswoman for EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini.

The EU has sanctions in place on Iran over human-rights abuses and terror links, and earlier this year discussed possible new restrictions on Iranian individuals and entities. However, the bloc has pledged to keep its nuclear-related sanctions suspended and is working on new measures to maintain trade and investment despite renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Denmark has full diplomatic ties with Iran. Its export credit agency signed an export finance deal with Iran two years ago.

Trump administration officials have said the Europe cases underline the security threat posed by Iran and called on European governments to increase diplomatic and economic pressure on Tehran.

"For nearly 40 years, Europe has been the target of Iran-sponsored terrorist attacks," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter on Tuesday after the Danish announcement. "We call on our allies and partners to confront the full range of Iran's threats to peace and security."

Denmark Says It Foiled Iranian Assassination Plot Document