Iran denies claims of assassination attempt on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Haroon Siddique, The Guardian

Confusion surrounded reports of an assassination attempt on the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today after sources in Tehran denied initial claims that an attack had taken place.

The Iranian website, khabaronline.ir, said a homemade grenade exploded near Ahmadinejad’s presidential motorcade in Hamedan in western Iran as he was on his way to address a crowd. Reuters said a source in the president’s office had confirmed the attack but other news outlets reported that presidential sources later denied any such attack had taken place. Khabar, the website, said he was unhurt and went on to give his speech as planned, which was broadcast live on state television.

The report said the president’s car was about 100 metres from the site of the blast. One person has been arrested but there was no news on whether anyone was injured, said the website.

Al Jazeera reported presidential sources saying that a firecracker went off near the convoy. It also said that journalists travelling with Ahmadinejad did not witness any assassination attempt.

Press TV, which is controlled by the Iranian state, also reported that a source in the president’s office said “no such attack had happened“. Ahmadinejad’s visit to Hamedan was reported on the website of the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) but it made no mention of the alleged assassination attempt.

Reporting the president’s speech, IRNA said he had expressed an interest “in dialogue [with the west] based on justice and mutual respect”. He criticised the imposition of sanctions on Iran but said he was prepared to meet Barack Obama on the sidelines of the UN general assembly in September, according to the report.

Ahmadenijad has become a pariah figure in the west since rising to power in 2005. He has thrived on confrontation, with frequent fiery rhetoric aimed at Israel, the US and their allies. Of most concern to the west is Iran’s nuclear programme which it believes is being used to develop weapons of mass destruction despite Iran’s insistence that it is for peaceful ends. Israel is believed to be prepared to strike against Iran’s nuclear facility if its fears about Iran developing nuclear weapons cannot be mollified. Ahmadinejad, who has denied the Holocaust in the past, claimed earlier this week that “Zionists” were threatening to kill him.

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