Monday, December 19, 2005

Iran Denies Media Reports of Attack on President

Iran denied on Monday media reports that a firefight last week in the country's lawless southeastern borderlands was an assassination attempt on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Government officials said Ahmadinejad was making a speech in Zahedan, capital of Sistan-Baluchistan province, on Wednesday when a car carrying security forces was attacked by smugglers on the road to the Gulf port of Chaharbahar.

"During the attack, the local driver and a Revolutionary Guardsman was killed. The police immediately intervened. One smuggler was killed and one arrested," government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham told a news conference. READ MORE

Some domestic and foreign reports described the attack as an assassination attempt, but officials said the vehicle that came under fire was not part of Ahmadinjad's cavalcade and that there had been no question of the president traveling on that road.

The vehicle had been deployed as part of largescale security measures imposed for the presidential visit.

"The attack just shows this region is very insecure for everyone: Sunnis, Shi'ites, Baluch and non-Baluch," Elham said.

The Baluch tribes of southeastern Iran are predominantly Sunni Muslims. Shi'ism is the official religion in Iran.

Sistan-Baluchistan is a main conduit for drugs moving to Europe from Afghanistan and Pakistan. More than 3,300 Iranian troops have died fighting well-armed traffickers since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The area is dotted with police forts, which would explain how police were able to intervene quickly in the gunbattle.

In his speech in Zahedan, Ahmadinejad called the Holocaust a myth, sparking international uproar.