We congratulate the government of #Denmark on its arrest of an Iranian regime assassin. For nearly 40 years, Europe has been the target of #Iran-sponsored terrorist attacks. We call on our allies and partners to confront the full range of Iran’s threats to peace and security.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) October 30, 2018
PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen gathered the support of his Nordic counterparts in Oslo on Wednesday. Photo: Heiko Junge/Ritzacanpix
“We are going to reach out to our European allies in the coming days to try to find a united response,” Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen told reporters during a meeting of Northern European leaders in Oslo.
The UK and the US have expressed support for Denmark, while there was a measured response in Brussels, where officials are desperately trying to save the 2015 agreement to curb Iran's nuclear programme after Washington abruptly pulled out.
“We deplore any threat to EU security and take every incident extremely seriously, and therefore we stand in solidarity with the member state concerned, in this case Denmark,” Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, told reporters.
In Oslo, Rasmussen also stressed that “we want to preserve the nuclear agreement”.
Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen began contacting his European counterparts on Wednesday to discuss possible sanctions against Iran — most likely economic ones, a diplomatic source told AFP.
Denmark on Tuesday announced it was recalling its ambassador to Iran after the Danish intelligence service PET accused the Iranian intelligence service of “planning an attack in Denmark” against three Iranians suspected of belonging to the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz or ASMLA.
ASMLA is a separatist group that advocates an Arab state in a southwestern Iranian province. Tehran calls it a terrorist organisation.
A Norwegian of Iranian origin was arrested on October 21 for allegedly planning the attack and spying for Iran.
Iran has denied the allegations, saying they were part of a European conspiracy against the Islamic Republic.
Tehran summoned the Danish ambassador on Wednesday, foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said.
“In this meeting, the (senior foreign ministry) official strongly denied the biased reports on a foiled attack plot on an Iranian dissident in Denmark and its attribution to the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Ghasemi said.
In late September, Tehran accused Denmark, the Netherlands and Britain of “hosting several members of the terrorist group” that Iran holds responsible for an attack in the mainly ethnic Arab city of Ahvaz in southwestern Iran. The September 22 attack, during which five commandos opened fire on a military parade, left 24 people dead.
The so-called Islamic State group and a separatist Arab group claimed responsibility, and Iran staged several operations in Iraq and Syria in response.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that Washington stood behind Denmark, a Nato ally.
In Oslo for a meeting of the Nordic Council, Northern European leaders were prudent.
“We're working on a concrete response. We've said that we will react,” Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said.
“We are following this very closely together with our Danish friends and when we know more we will make a decision about possible measures,” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said.
US President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Iran accord — known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — in May, slamming it as a bad deal and reimposing punishing sanctions on Iran.
The EU and the three European signatories to the deal — Britain, France and Germany — have been trying to keep the deal alive.
Kocijancic insisted efforts to save the deal did not mean the EU was overlooking other issues such as Iran's ballistic missile programme and interference in regional conflicts.
“But we believe that the JCPOA, which has a very clear aim, needs to remain in place because it is an element of security, while other issues need to be addressed with all seriousness in parallel,” she said.