UPDATED: As Nordic prime ministers presented a collective front in Oslo this week, Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide summoned Iran’s ambassador in Oslo to her office on Thursday. She wanted to let him know just how seriously the Norwegian government is taking charges that Iranian intelligence was plotting to assassinate critics of Iran in Denmark.
Søreide has also joined her Nordic colleagues in issuing a sharp reaction to the alleged assassination plot, for which an Iranian man with residence permission in Norway has been arrested.
“This is a case we view very seriously and that’s the clear message we have given to Iran’s ambassador today,” Søreide told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Thursday afternoon. She wouldn’t reveal how Ambassador Mohammad Hassan Habibollahzadeh responded: “The most important thing for us is to stress to Iran that we are taking this situation very seriously.” She added that Norwegian police are cooperating with Danish police in the investigation into the alleged assassination plot.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg, meanwhile, called any intelligence gathering aimed at plotting an assassination on foreign soil “completely unacceptable.” Solberg had said on Wednesday that Norway’s foreign ministry was working on its own response to Iran after Danish police arrested the Iranian who lives in Norway, and charged him with planning to assassinate critics of the Iranian regime.
“We view this very seriously, and not least because a Norwegian-Iranian is involved,” Solberg told reporters following a session of the Nordic Council that’s been meeting in Oslo. She said the foreign ministry would be formulating Norway’s official response, after obtaining more information from Norwegian police intelligence.
“I think we must object clearly to this” Solberg said, despite claims from Iranian officials that Danish authorities’ charges are false and part of an effort to harm Iran’s reputation. Iran’s own foreign ministry linked it to an alleged plot “to damage Iran’s relations with Europe at a critical point in time.”
Targets under surveillance
Danish police claim that a 39-year-old Norwegian-Iranian had an exiled Iranian under surveillance, observing his actions and taking photos of him from September 25-27. Police believe the 39-year-old from Iran who’s a Norwegian citizen planned to deliver information about the exiled Iranian, who was placed under Danish police protection last spring, to Iranian authorities.
It remains unclear, however, which of Iran’s 16 intelligence organizations was set to receive the information. Denmark’s police intelligence agency PET believes the Norwegian-Iranian planned to assassinate members of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA) who are living in Denmark. Both the 39-year-old and Iranian officials deny any such plans. Iran has long been suspected, also by Norway’s own police intelligence agency PST, of spying on Iranian refugees in Europe.
PST working with Denmark’s PET
PST confirmed that it has been working with PET on the alleged assassination plots in Denmark. Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen made it clear during his meetings in Oslo with the Nordic Council that he sees a need “to show Iran that we know what has happened and we won’t put up with it. I have information that Iranians in other countries have also carried out similar activities. We’ll use the next few days to discuss a collective response with our European allies.”
The Nordic foreign ministers issued their own response on Wednesday, stating that it was important that the Nordic countries “stand shoulder to shoulder when faced with threats against our societies.” The foreign ministers of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland “noted with great concern the information (from) our Danish colleague (about) the recent foiled assassination plot in Denmark by an Iranian intelligence agency. At this moment we express our full solidarity with our Danish friends and partners. We deplore any threat to Nordic security.”