Alleged Iranian terror plot draws sharp response from U.S.

The front of the Saudi embassy. (Photo: Kris Van Cleave)

(AP, ABC7) The U.S. warns that an Iranian plot against the Saudi envoy may indicate 'more aggressive' focus on terror attacks while Iran is rejecting claims of its involvement.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the U.S. is preparing new penalties against Iranians following the plot.

A spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry called the claims a "prefabricated scenario" and a "ridiculous show."

"These old-fashioned behaviors are based on the long-standing hostile American-Zionist policies and are ridiculous show in line with scenarios to provoke division," the semiofficial Fars news agency quoted Mehmanparast as saying Tuesday.

The U.S. Justice Department accused agents of the Iranian government of involvement in a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, with help from a suspected member of a Mexican drug cartel.

"Designers of such prefabricated scenarios seek to create divisions and help the Zionist regime get of isolation," Mehmanparast was quoted as saying.

Earlier, IRNA, the official Iranian news agency, called the accusations by the U.S. Justice Department as "America's new propaganda scenario" against Iran, without elaborating.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Clinton said the Treasury Department soon would put more people under sanctions. She also predicted the plot would further isolate Iran.

Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller said the plot to kill the Saudi ambassador was conceived by agents of the Iranian government.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday the U.S. would hold Iran accountable. Two people, one of them a member of Iran's special operations unit known as the Quds Force, were charged in New York federal court.

The FBI and DEA disrupted the major terrorist plot that targeted embassies and foreign officials, including the Saudi ambassador in D.C.{ }{ }

Federal officials say a plot with ties to Iran were to include bomb attacks against the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, along attacks on the Saudi and Israeli embassies.

"This conspiracy was conceived, sponsored and directed from Iran and constitutes a flagrant violation of U.S. and international law, including a convention that explicitly protects diplomats from being harmed," said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Authorities charged Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen with both Iranian and U.S. passports, and Gholam Shakuri, an Iran-based member of Iran’s special operations force, with involvement in the plot.

Both defendants are charged with conspiracy to murder a foreign official, conspiracy to engage in foreign travel and use of interstate and foreign commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy to commit an act of international terrorism transcending national boundaries.

Arbabsiar is also charged with an additional count of foreign travel and use of interstate and foreign commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire.

Shakuri remains at large while Arbabsiar was arrested on Sept. 29 at JFK International airport in New York City.

Officials say the main target of the plot was Saudi ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir, who has served his post since 2007.

"The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia would like to express its appreciation to the responsible agencies of the United States government for preventing a criminal act from taking place," the Saudi embassy stated in a news release. "The attempted plot is a despicable violation of international norms, standards and conventions and is not in accord with the principles of humanity."

The other D.C. targets included the Saudi Arabian embassy, which is located at 601 New Hampshire Ave. NW and the Israeli embassy, which is at 3514 International Drive NW.

"I have been fully briefed and updated on this situation since July and am pleased to see the success of today's operation to keep our city safe," said Mayor Vincent Gray. "These threats are serious and citizens should know we are taking all appropriate measures to ensure their safety."

Iran has been listed as a state sponsor of terror by the United States since 1984.

“The investigation leading to today’s charges illustrates both the challenges and complexities of the international threat environment, and our increased ability today to bring together the intelligence and law enforcement resources necessary to better identify and disrupt those threats, regardless of their origin,” said FBI Director Robert Mueller.

READ the entire criminal complaint here: