Ahmadinejad target of Rome murder plot, aide says

AFP: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the target of an assassination plot at the UN food summit in Rome earlier this month as well as during a trip to Iraq in March, an aide said on Monday.

President AhmadinejadAhmadinejad last week himself revealed the purported Iraq murder plot – an announcement greeted with astonishment in some sections of the local press – but this is the first time a conspiracy has been linked to his Italy trip.

“The actions of the president over the three previous years have endangered the illegitimate interests of many people in Iran and outside,” said Ali Zabihi, according to the Fars news agency.

“That is why some people have thought of eliminating or assassinating the president,” added Zabihi, who was described as Ahmadinejad’s adviser for human resources.

“But the plots to assassinate the president in Iraq and at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) conference failed, thanks to God,” he said.

Ahmadinejad said on Thursday that enemies had planned to kidnap and kill him in Iraq but the plot was foiled after the Iranian delegation changed their travel plans.

According to Zabihi, the plots were “in line with the order given by (US President George W.) Bush to kill Iranian leaders.” He did not give further details.

He even compared the plots to the very real and deadly attacks committed by the outlawed armed opposition against some of Iran’s top officials in the early years after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

“Like at the start of the revolution, some people inside and outside the country have been trying to create a poisoned atmosphere to prepare an action against him.”

Ahmadinejad faces a battle for re-election in summer 2009 against a background of popular discontent over rising prices and exasperation amongst some conservatives over his repeatedly provocative statements.

But some moderate newspapers have already started questioning the validity of the president’s allegations of an attempt on his life during the trip to Iraq, the first ever by an Iranian president.

“Why did the president wait three-and-a-half months before revealing such a thing?” asked the reformist daily Etemad Melli.

“As Mr Ahmadinejad went to New York (for the UN General Assembly) wouldn’t it have been simpler for the Americans to kidnap him on their own soil?” it noted.

The moderate daily Kargozaran wondered why no protest had been lodged with the Swiss embassy in Tehran that looks after US interests in the absence of an American mission.

“If the president’s statements are not confirmed… his attention should be drawn to the damaging consequences for the long-term interests of the country of using such means of propaganda,” it added.

Iran and the United States have had no diplomatic relations for almost the past three decades and remain arch-enemies who are at loggerheads in a standoff over Tehran’s nuclear drive.