Pretoria – Iranian ambassador to South Africa Mahdi Aghajafari had barely been in Pretoria for a month when explosive allegations emerged that Tehran was using its Pretoria embassy to plot the assassination of US ambassador to South Africa Lana Marks.
South Africa’s intelligence services soon calmed the situation by revealing that there was “insufficient information” to sustain the grave allegations made against Iran.
Recounting the international debacle which spilled onto South African soil, on Tuesday Aghajafari told African News Agency (ANA) that the episode was devised to set Tehran and Pretoria on a collision course.
“It was just a baseless accusation made by a terrorist state. At the same time, it was an insult to General Soleimani and his blood, as well as a dirty plot to violate the brotherly relationship between Iran and South Africa, but no one believed this lie. Fortunately, the South African State Security Agency officially rejected it in time. We need to thank them for this timely action,” said Aghajafari.
“The United States government, and in particular the secretary Mike Pompeo, are addicted to lying and cheating to deceive world public opinion in order to advance their evil intentions. In a speech, the film of which is available, Pompeo openly and proudly acknowledges lying, deception and cheating and even admits that they are trained to do so. It’s really embarrassing.”
In September, spokesperson for the State Security Agency Mava Scott said the local intelligence services had looked into the allegations and resolved that the information at hand did not sustain the allegation.
“At present, the information provided is not sufficient to sustain the allegation that there is a credible threat against the US ambassador to South Africa,” said Scott at the time.
He said South African officials had subsequently requested additional information from the US government, and once Washington provides those details, the facts will be reviewed and reassessed.
American publication Politico published sensational claims of a plot by the Iranian government to kill Marks, who is outgoing US President Donald Trump’s ally, in revenge for the January 2019 killing of General Qasem Soleimani, a top Iranian army commander who was killed by the Trump administration.
Iran this week marked one year since the death of Soleimani in an American drone strike in Baghdad, amid fears in Washington that Tehran could retaliate for the killing on the sombre anniversary.
Aghajafari said Soleimani’s killing was “very cowardly” and insisted that Tehran would avenge his death “in the right place and at the right time”.
“We believe that the assassination of General Soleimani firstly weakens the process of fighting terrorism in the (Middle East) region and the world, and secondly weakens the current crisis management process in the region. The United States and the Zionist regime did not agree with either of these two goals. The martyrdom of General Soleimani is a great loss for the whole region,” said the Iranian envoy.
“As Islamic Republic of Iran authorities reiterated, we neither forgive nor forget this grave crime. We will take severe revenge on the perpetrators of this assassination, of course, in the right place and at the right time. Do not doubt that this promise will be fulfilled.”
Commenting on Iran-South Africa relations, Aghajafari said the raging Covid-19 pandemic which has killed almost two million people across the world presents South Africa and Iran with a unique opportunity to heighten collaboration in exchanging experiences and joining hands in ongoing extensive efforts in processing the vaccine in both countries.
“The condition of Covid-19 is temporary. At the same time, this condition according to the level of knowledge and technology of scientists of the two countries possess can be a good ground of co-operation between the two countries, especially in the fields of the exchange of experiences and joint works on the treatment of this disease as well as processing the vaccine,” said Aghajafari.
“As you are aware, the Islamic Republic of Iran last week started a human trial of a home-grown vaccine and we are ready to share our knowledge and experience in this field as well as in other fields with our friends in South Africa.”
He said the Iranian community in South Africa has an increasing presence in various fields, including science, universities, medicine, trade and economy, and this presence will be further strengthened with the planned programmes.
“Another important area of co-operation between the two countries is security and police co-operation between the two sides, especially in the fields of counterterrorism and counter-narcotics, in which the Islamic Republic of Iran has very important and valuable knowledge and experience. In addition to contributing to peace and stability in the region, this co-operation will be a prelude to co-operation in other areas as well,” said Aghajafari.
He said South African companies have invested and have had an influential presence in Iran over the past four decades.
“It can be argued that after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, South African companies are the largest foreign investor in Iran. Sasol and the MTN Group, which is still active in Iran, are among the biggest foreign companies in Iran,” he said.
African News Agency/ANA