LONDON,(Agencies) – Britain accused Iran”s Revolutionary Guards on Wednesday of supplying weapons to Shi”ite militia in Iraq used to attack British troops.
Washington and London have long accused Iran of fomenting unrest in Iraq, but the allegations, made by British officials under condition of anonymity, were more detailed than previous public remarks.
An official said that recent attacks on British troops in southern Iraq appeared to have been carried out by a splinter group from the militia of radical Shi”ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
The attackers "were using technically advanced equipment that had previously been used by Lebanese Hezbollah, and they are linked with Iran. Therefore there was some indication that Iran was linked to those attacks," he said.
Attacks in Iraq were carried out using armour-piercing explosives and infrared control mechanisms "which basically you would need specific expertise to use" and were similar to devices used by Hezbollah, the official said.
While Iran”s government has publicly denied it supports Iraqi militia, "there was some suggestion that this could be elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that were involved."
British forces patrol the area around Basra in southern Iraq, territory that is overwhelmingly Shi”ite, where militia with historical ties to Shi”ite Iran have been powerful.
British troops have come under attack several times in recent weeks, most notably in a riot after British forces attacked a jail to free undercover soldiers they said had been turned over to a Shi”ite militia by police.
The official said Britain suspects that Shi”ite Iran has also backed "Sunni elements" in Iraq, as well as the Shi”ite militia with which it has sectarian ties.
"There was evidence that there were links to certain Sunni groups that were part and parcel of Iranian efforts to destabilise Iraq," he said.
A British Foreign Office spokesman said: "Iranian links to militant groups are unacceptable and undermine Iran”s long-term interest in a secure, stable and democratic Iraq. Iran has given public undertakings on a number of occasions not to intervene in Iraq”s internal affairs."
Meanwhile, the Iraqi embassy in France said that it expected Baghdad”s new government would soon be the owner of a magnificent property on the Riviera which is dubbed "Saddam”s villa" by locals because of its use by members of the deposed regime.
The estate, complete with pool, several hundred square metres of land and a view across the glitzy bay of Cannes, has been uninhabited for many months and receives only basic upkeep, in contrast to the other manicured mansions lining the same neighbourhood, known as "billionaire hill".
But an official with the Iraqi embassy in Paris, who declined to be identified, said that the process of transferring ownership from a company called Logarcheo to the Iraqi state was underway, "posed no problem and is being finalised."
He added: "We don”t understand all this media attention on a property whose value we estimate at 12 million euros" (14.4 million dollars).
A Swiss lawyer for Logarcheo, Jacques Buchi, said the property had been bought in 1982 for 10 million euros but was now one of the assets of the former Iraqi regime frozen by the United Nations.
Cannes locals said the transaction for the villa was carried out by a close acquaintance of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, Kalef Ebdoulahi.
But Said Aburish, the author of a biography of Saddam, said that neither the deposed dictator nor his family had ever stayed at the address.
"Unlike the Saudi princes who come, alone or with their families, to their homes here, this villa only ever lodged people close to Saddam," he said.
Nevertheless, news cameras have been trained on the property for some time. Especially when, in 2002, it emerged that the property next door was owned by one of the brothers of Osama bin Laden.