Austria Says It Expects Iran to Help Clear up Case of Arrested Diplomat

VIENNA, July 4 (Reuters) – Austria said on Wednesday it expects Iran to shed light on the case of one of its Vienna-based diplomats who was arrested in Germany over a suspected plot to carry out a bomb attack on an exiled Iranian opposition group.

The case cast a shadow over Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Austria on Wednesday at which both sides discussed issues including salvaging the Iran nuclear deal after the U.S. decision to withdraw and reinstate sanctions on Tehran.

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“We expect full clarification in connection with this and I thank you, Mr President, for assuring us that you will support this clarification,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said in a statement to reporters after meeting Rouhani.

Rouhani did not mention the diplomat in his remarks and the two leaders took no questions.

Austria summoned Iran’s ambassador over the case on Monday and said it was stripping the arrested Iranian of his diplomatic status.

Iran on Tuesday reiterated it had nothing to do with the alleged plot and could provide “necessary documentation to clarify the dimensions of this scenario.”

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Belgian authorities identified the diplomat as 46-year-old Assadollah A and said he is suspected of having been in contact with two people arrested in Belgium with 500 grams of the homemade explosive TATP and a detonation device in their car.

Their alleged target was a rally near Paris last weekend of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) – an umbrella organisation of opposition groups in exile that seek an end to Shi’ite Muslim clerical rule in Iran.

Belgium also issued a European arrest warrant for a man of Iranian origin being held in France suspected of being involved in the alleged plot, a French judicial source said.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani as well as former European and Arab ministers attended the NCRI meeting.

The NCRI held a small protest against Rouhani’s visit on the edge of the area of central Vienna that police sealed off.

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Foreign ministers from the remaining signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal – Iran, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China – meet in Vienna on Friday to discuss salvaging the accord.

European powers are putting together an economic package aimed at safeguarding the deal by shielding Iran from some of the impact of U.S. sanctions resuming. Rouhani has said Iran will stay in the accord if its interests are preserved.

Rouhani also met the head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is policing the restrictions the deal places on Iran’s atomic activities in exchange for sanctions relief. The IAEA said the meeting was “part of the regular high-level dialogue between the IAEA and Iran”.

Rouhani’s one-day visit to Austria followed a longer trip that was planned two years ago but which he cancelled at the last minute on unspecified security grounds.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy with additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Ankara and Alexandra Schwarz-Goerlich in ViennaEditing by Mark Heinrich, William Maclean)