U.S. President Barack Obama says Washington will make sure Iran “pays a price” for a plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States.
Mr. Obama spoke to reporters Thursday during a news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Washington.
He said it was clear that individuals within the Iranian government were aware of the plot, calling it part of a pattern of “dangerous and reckless behavior.” He also said the U.S. will consider all options in responding to the plot and would start by applying the toughest possible sanctions in order to further isolate the Tehran.
Mr. Obama also warned Iran has been acting outside the norms of international behavior for far too long, and that more countries are speaking out against Tehran in what he called “a forceful way.”
South Korean President Lee said he was deeply shocked to learn of the plot and said Seoul condemns all forms of terrorism.
Earlier Thursday Saudi Arabia accused Iran of seeking international influence through “murder and mayhem.”
During a visit to Austria, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said Saudi Arabia is working on a “measured response.” He also said his country would “not bow” to Iranian pressure and would hold Tehran accountable for any action taken against Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Thursday the alleged plot was a “major escalation in Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism.” He said Britain will work with the U.S., the European Union and Saudi Arabia to agree on an international reaction.
Iran has denied the allegations. The state-run IRNA news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Ahani Wednesday as calling the scenario “absurd” and urging Saudi Arabia to be wary of U.S. efforts to damage relations of countries in the region.
The White House said U.S. President Barack Obama and Saudi King Abdullah spoke by telephone Wednesday and agreed that the plot represents a “flagrant violation” of international norms and vowed to hold all those involved accountable.
The U.S. Justice Department announced this week it charged Manssor Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen, and Gholam Shakuri, a member of an elite Iranian military unit, with conspiring to carry out a bomb attack on Saudi envoy Adel al-Jubeir.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the plot was “conceived, sponsored and directed” from Iran.
U.S. officials say Arbabsiar unknowingly hired an informant of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to carry out the plot, believing the informant had ties to Mexican drug cartels capable of killing the Saudi ambassador. They say Arbabsiar confessed to making a $100,000 down payment on the scheme with a price tag of $1.5 million.
Officials arrested Arbabsiar at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on September 29, but Shakuri is still at large.