By Arab Times
August 26, 2009 "Arab Times
" -- ZAHEDAN, Iran, Aug 25, (Agencies): A top Sunni rebel who is awaiting execution in Iran said on Tuesday that his militant group received orders from the United States to launch terror attacks in the Islamic republic.
Abdolhamid Rigi, brother of shadowy Jundallah (Soldiers of God) group leader Abdolmalek Rigi, told reporters his brother was an Al-Qaeda point man in Iran six years ago but that later the group broke off ties with him.
“The United States created and supported Jundallah and we received orders from them,” Rigi said in Iran’s restive southeastern city of Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchestan province bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“They (US officials) told us whom to shoot and whom not to. All orders came from them. They told us that they would provide us with everything we need like money and equipment.”
Wearing normal clothing, and not a prison uniform, Rigi addressed reporters in a government building in Zahedan, amid relatively light security.
Iran has accused Jundallah of launching several attacks inside the country, mainly in Sistan-Baluchestan.
The group also claimed a May 28 bomb attack on the Shiite Amir al-Momenin mosque in Zahedan in which more than 20 people were killed and 50 wounded.
That attack came just weeks before Iran’s June 12 presidential election which returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.
Iran has in the past blamed US and British agents based in neighbouring Iraq and Afghanistan for launching attacks on border provinces with significant ethnic minority populations.
The day after the mosque bombing, officials accused the United States of “hiring” those behind the attack, linking it to the presidential election.
Washington rejected the accusation.
“We condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said. “We do not sponsor any form of terrorism in Iran.”
Before Tuesday’s news conference began, reporters saw a group of people who reportedly had relatives killed in attacks launched by Jundallah.
An AFP correspondent said that as Rigi sat down to address reporters, some of the victims’ relatives called out, denouncing him as a murderer.
Video footage of the aftermath of attacks allegedly launched by Jundallah was also shown at the news conference.
The images included gory executions of several handcuffed and blindfolded people — scenes which provincial officials told reporters had been filmed by Rigi himself.
The officials said some of those shown being killed, who were not identified, had been captured by Jundullah in 2006 and later executed.
Sistan-Baluchestan has a large ethnic Sunni Baluch minority, and also lies on a major narcotics-smuggling route from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Iranian officials have said Abdolhamid will be executed for his role in several attacks in the country.
One of Iran’s most prominent pro-reform figures admitted fomenting unrest and asked for the country’s forgiveness Tuesday during the mass trial of activists detained in the postelection crackdown in a confession that the opposition said was coerced.
The courtroom statement by Saeed Hajjarian — who is considered one of the reform movement’s top architects and who was shot in the head in a 2000 assassination attempt — was the latest dramatic confession in the month-old trial that the opposition has compared to Josef Stalin’s “show trials” of opponents in the Soviet Union.
More than 100 defendants are on trial, accused of trying to overthrow Iran’s clerical leadership in a “velvet revolution” by fomenting huge protests over the disputed June 12 presidential election, which the opposition says President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won by fraud.
Also among the defendants who appeared Tuesday was Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American academic. The prosecutor read out charges against him including espionage, contact with foreign elements and acting against national security.
Speaking before the court, Tajbakhsh appeared to try to speak broadly about foreign interference in Iran, saying “undeniably this was a goal of the U.S. and European countries to bring change inside Iran” and that “the root cause of the riots are found outside the borders.”
Several aides to former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami were put on trial on Tuesday on charges of masterminding post-election unrest and plotting a “soft coup” in the Islamic republic.
Among the 20 or so people in the dock in the revolutionary court in Tehran were a former minister and a number of other top political figures as well as reformist journalists and academics, local media reported.
The prosecution charged that some political groups “with the cooperation of Western media and colonial embassies disrupted the situation and misused the supporters of defeated candidates to launch a soft coup d’etat,” the state broadcaster said.
Britain and Israel warned Iran on Tuesday that it faced tougher international sanctions if it failed to cooperate on its disputed nuclear programme.
The United States, Britain, France and Germany are expected to ask Russia and China in talks on Sept 2 to consider a fourth round of UN sanctions, possibly targeting Iran’s oil sector, if Tehran does not accept negotiations on its nuclear programme.
“If there is no further progress immediately then I believe the world will have to look at stepping up sanctions against Iran as a matter of priority,” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said at a news conference in London with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The United States and its allies, including Britain, accuse Iran of trying to develop atomic weapons, while Iran says it only wants nuclear technology to generate electricity.
Asked about the prospect of Iran developing nuclear arms, Netanyahu said: “Time is running out, it is late in the day, but it is not too late.”
“If the resolve of the responsible members of the international community is strong and firm, then however late the hour, the future can be secured and this is our preference,” added Netanyahu.
Iran has put more machines on line to enrich uranium yet its output is stagnating, diplomats said Tuesday, adding that could mean Tehran may be running out of the ore that serves as the base for nuclear fuel — or the fissile core of warheads.
The diplomats — who demanded anonymity because their information was confidential — emphasized that the possibility Iran was running short of uranium oxide was only one of several possible explanations of why it had not substantially upped production of enriched uranium since May.
But they said it seemed unlikely the Islamic Republic had deliberately decided to curb its production. They noted that, despite the stagnation in output, Iran continued over the past three months to expand its capabilities by installing and running hundreds more of the centrifuges that spin uranium hexafluoride gas derived from uranium oxide into enriched uranium.
With Iran under strict UN embargoes and on an international watch list meant to cripple its ability to import nuclear materials illegally, it could find it difficult to procure enough uranium oxide to feed its enrichment program. That, in turn, could reflect the success of UN sanctions by dealing a blow to its stated goal of expanding enrichment to the point where it can supply fuel for a nationwide nuclear network.
The International Atomic Energy Agency and independent experts believe that Iran’s rapidly expanding uranium enrichment program has been built on 600 tons of so-called “yellowcake” or uranium oxide imported from South Africa during the 1970s as part of ambitious plans by the former regime of Shah Reza Pahlavi to build a network of nuclear reactors.
In the enrichment process, uranium oxide is processed into uranium hexafluoride, which then is spun and re-spun to varying degrees of enrichment, with low enriched uranium used for nuclear fuel and upper-end high enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.
Iran denied it was running out of yellowcake.
“It is not true,” said Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Tehran’s chief delegation to the IAEA, while adding that he could not make a substantial comment before the agency publishes its next report on his country’s nuclear program sometime this week.