10262014Sun

Iran denies role in bus bombing in Bulgaria

The Associated Press

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Iran's ambassador to Bulgaria on Friday rejected allegations that his country was involved in a bus bombing that killed five Israeli tourists in Bulgaria last year.

Gholamreza Bageri told reporters in Sofia that Iran "has nothing to do with this attack." He says Iran is "against any form of terrorism and strongly condemns such actions."

On Tuesday, an official Bulgarian report said investigators had "well-grounded reasons to suggest" that two men suspected in the attack belonged to the militant wing of the Shiite Islamist group Hezbollah.

Iran is said to be a backer of Hezbollah, and Israel has alleged Iran was involved in the bombing. But Bulgarian investigators said they have found no evidence tying Iran to the July 18, 2012, attack.

Tehran denied involvement even before Bulgaria announced its findings, but Hezbollah has made no comment.

Hezbollah, a Shiite militant group and political party in Lebanon that emerged in response to Israel's 1982 invasion, has been linked to attacks and kidnappings on Israeli and Jewish interests around the world.

The group's deputy chief, Sheik Naim Kassem, said on Wednesday that Israel was conducting an international terror campaign against Hezbollah because it failed to defeat it militarily. "All these accusations against Hezbollah will have no effect, and do not change the facts or realities on the ground," Kassem said.

In Lebanon, the group is increasingly accused of putting the interests of longtime patrons Iran and Syria over those of its home country.

New troubles for Hezbollah could also add to Iran's international isolation. The Iranian regime is already under international sanctions for its suspect nuclear program, and has seen its position weaken due to its close ties with the Syrian regime. Its association with Hezbollah will likely further hurt Iran's international image.

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