US officials to brief cautious Turkey on Iran plot

Iranian women walk past an anti-US mural on the wall of the former US Embassy in Tehran on Oct. 12, 2011. (Photo: Reuters)

October 14, 2011, Friday/ 12:35:00

A US team will travel to Turkey soon to brief Turkish authorities on what the US says a clumsy plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States on American soil.

The US has decided to send interagency teams after some countries have asked for additional information on the plot, denied vehemently by Iran, the Associated Press reported, citing a State Department official. In addition to Turkey, the US teams will also visit Russia and China, two countries that have reacted with caution to the US statements on the Iran plot.

That the US officials will provide further briefing to Turkish officials is a sign that Turkey may be viewing the US and Saudi accusations against Tehran with some skepticism. No Turkish official has publicly commented on the issue since US authorities announced on Tuesday that they broke up the plot by two men linked to the Iranian government to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in the United States.

US diplomats have given their host governments information about the foiled plot. At the United Nations, US Ambassador Susan Rice also briefed top envoys from the 14 other Security Council nations on Wednesday. Allies said the evidence she presented clearly showed the involvement of Iranian officials but left unanswered the question of whether Iran's top political and religious leaders knew about the plot.

Russian and Chinese diplomats, on the other hand, reacted cautiously when asked whether they found the evidence presented by Rice and other US officials to be credible.

"It's very credible and very convincing," France's UN Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters on Thursday. "Obviously, there were officials in Iran who were behind the plot, but I don't know to which level."

"We've laid the facts before them," US President Barack Obama said of world leaders. He said once they analyze them, "there will not be a dispute" over what happened.

The State Department conceded on Thursday that the response from foreign governments was initially skeptical.

"When you look at these details, it seems like something out of a movie," said department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. "And that's always the first reaction. That was the first reaction when this effort was briefed to some senior folks in this government," she said. "But as you begin to give more detail on what we knew and when we knew it and how we knew it, it has credibility."

Washington is seeking a vigorous response from around the world, on top of increased sanctions and pressure against Iran from the United States itself.

The US says the Iranian plotters hired a would-be assassin in Mexico who was a paid informant for the US Drug Enforcement Administration and told US authorities all about their plot.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also called her Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoğlu, on Friday and briefed him on the assassination plot, diplomatic sources said, according to the state-run Anatolia news agency.

Clinton also confirmed her participation in American-Turkish Assembly gathering at the end of this month in Washington. Davutoğlu told Clinton that he will not be able to participate in the meeting in Washington because he has to stay in İstanbul for preparations of a conference on Afghanistan.

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