Lebanon: suicide attack against Iranian embassy, 23 dead

Al Qaida says responsible. Syria is a priority, Iranian FM says

19 November, 20:15

    The scene of two suicide explosions near the Iranian embassy  in Beirut The scene of two suicide explosions near the Iranian embassy in Beirut

    (ANSAmed) - BEIRUT - Two car bombs driven by as many suicide bombers on Tuesday morning hit southern Beirut where the Iranian embassy is located, targeting the main entrance of the diplomatic compound, according to Iranian media.

    Iranian cultural attaché, shaykh Ibrahim Ansari, was among the 23 victims. According to Iranian state television, he was close to the embassy's entrance at the time of the attack.

    Jihadist group Brigades Abdullah Azzam linked to al Qaida claimed responsibility for the attack but Iran's ambassador to Beirut, Ghozanfar Roknabadi, said Israel was behind 'the terrorist attack'. The pro-Iranian Lebanese movement Hezbollah and the Syrian regime of President Bashar al Assad also accused Israel.

    The first blast occurred at around 9.20 am local time in the Bir Hasan area: a car packed with explosives drove into the door of the embassy. A few minutes later another car - which was perhaps supposed to explode inside the diplomatic compound - blew up on the same road where a number of residential buildings are located.

    Most of the victims - including some 150 injured - were caused by this second explosion and are civilians. Embassy security guards were also killed.

    Lebanese Defence Minister Fayez Ghosn said 'it is the first time Beirut is struck by a double and coordinated suicide attack'.

    'It is an attempt to bring regional instability to Lebanon' added the minister, who is close to the Hezbollah-led government coalition.

    Today's suicide bombing in Beirut is a reminder that ending the Syrian civil war is a priority, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters at a news briefing Tuesday after meeting with his Italian counterpart, Emma Bonino. The Iranian and most of all the Lebanese victims remind us that we must make the Syria dossier a priority'', Zarif said before heading to Geneva for a third round of nuclear talks with the P5+1 group of world powers (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany). The presence of ''extremists in Syria and on the streets of Damascus is a very serious problem. I do not believe it will be possible to contain those tensions within the Syrian border. It is a tragedy we must deal with'', the foreign minister went on. Zarif earlier told Rainews24 in an interview that Iran ''is very interested in finding a political solution to the ongoing catastrophe in Syria'', and that he would raise this issue with Bonino.

    In answer to a question on Israel ahead of tomorrow's talks, the minister said ''Those who are interested in stoking tensions must be held responsible''. ''Israel should stop violating international law by threatening the use of force, and the international community should stand up against a regime that possesses nuclear weapons and that violates Palestinian rights, endangering peace and security'', he added. Iran is ''committed along with other countries'' to resolving this issue ''within the bounds of mutual respect, and it does not accept interference''. ''We are working to promote dialogue and understanding on an international level. It is strange that some find this attempt too difficult'', said Zarif. The minister professed himself ''sure of success'' in Geneva ''as long as both parties negotiate in good faith and with the necessary political will''. ''I am going to Geneva determined to return with an accord. I think it will be possible at the end of this round'', the minister concluded.  (ANSAmed).

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