Italy says Iranian militia tried to attack embassy

Nov 30, -0001
ROME: Italy said dozens of members of Iran's religious Basij militia had tried to attack its embassy in Tehran on Tuesday, but Iranian media described the incident as a protest by students and denied there was any violence.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told a Senate hearing: "About a hundred Basij dressed as civilians tried to assault the embassy shouting "Death to Italy" and "Death to (Prime Minister) Berlusconi."

He said similar incidents had occurred at the French and Dutch embassies in the Iranian capital.

Frattini later told reporters the attackers were "certainly or most probably Basij. We did not recognise them, but because of the type of demonstration and the slogans chanted it looked a bit suspect."

He said the attackers had hurled stones at the embassy but caused no serious damage. Iranian police had intervened to "stop a full-blown assault".

Italy has traditionally been one of Iran's main trading partners in Europe but Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's close ties with Israel, and diplomatic pressure over the nuclear dispute with Tehran, have led to a sharp reduction in Italian investments in Iran.

On a trip to Israel last week, Berlusconi said his government would block new investments in the oil and gas sector -- where Italy's ENI is active. Iranian media later condemned Berlusconi as "a slave of Israel".

Iran's semi-official Fars news agency said hardline students protested outside the French and Italian embassies, but there were no reports of violence or attempts by the students to attack the embassies.

Frattini said Rome would not send its ambassador to celebrations on Thursday marking the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

A spokeswoman for the Dutch foreign ministry said she was not aware of any protest at their embassy. There was no immediate comment from French authorities. AGENCIES






Tabool ads will show in this div