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Rift with West widens as Iran accuses Britain in deadly bombings

TEHRAN -- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused Britain yesterday of being behind weekend bombings that killed five people in Iran.

His comments reflected sharply escalating tension with the West, after the United States and Britain asserted last week that Iran had been involved in insurgent attacks in neighboring Iraq.

''We are very suspicious about the role of British forces in perpetrating such terrorist acts," the student news agency ISNA quoted Ahmadinejad as saying in reference to the two bombings Saturday in southwestern Iran.

''Our people are used to these kind of incidents, and our intelligence agents found the footprints of Britain in the same incidents before," Ahmadinejad was quoted as having said at a Cabinet meeting yesterday. ''We think the presence of British forces in southern Iraq and near the Iranian border is a factor behind insecurity for the Iraqi and Iranian people."

Britain, which has more than 8,000 troops in southern Iraq, has denied any link with the two bombs in the oil city of Ahvaz. The blasts wounded more than 80 people, in addition to the five who died.

The British have also denied any role in a string of attacks in Khuzistan Province, the center of Iran's oil industry.

No one has claimed responsibility for the bombs, which had been planted in trash bins at a shopping mall and were detonated a few minutes apart.

Ahmadinejad's remarks raised tension between Tehran and London. Relations were sensitive because talks between Tehran and Britain, France, and Germany on Iran's nuclear program broke down in August. Britain and the United States have accused Iran of providing military advice to Iraqi insurgents behind attacks on British troops in southern Iraq. Iran has denied meddling in Iraq.

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