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Iran protests over death plot claim

Iran has formally complained to the US over claims that the Iranian government was involved in an alleged plot to kill Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States.

A US official said a diplomatic note was received on Friday expressing displeasure with the accusations were levelled earlier this month, which the country denies.

The official said the note was delivered through the Swiss embassy in Tehran, which represents US interests in Iran since the two countries do not have diplomatic relations.

US government prosecutors claim an Iranian government agent was involved in plotting the assassination of the Saudi ambassador. US officials had said agents linked to Iran's Quds Force - an elite wing of the powerful Revolutionary Guard - were involved in the suspected plot to kill Saudi ambassador Adel al-Jubeir.

An Iranian diplomatic source said the letter emphasised Iran's assertions that Washington's allegations were "based on lies" and called into question US diplomatic tactics that Iran calls violations of "international rules and regulations".

The Iranian source did not make the precise wording of the letter available, but said the letter also mentioned the thousands of deaths in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003 and the "billions of dollars from the US citizens' pockets".

Plans by President Barack Obama to withdraw all US forces from Iraq by the end of the year have drawn criticism from political opponents because of Iran's close ties with Iraq's Shiite majority and the government of prime minister Nouri Maliki.

The letter called for a US apology for the ambassador plot allegations and sought unspecified compensation for "material and moral damages of this baseless accusation", the source added.

A dual US-Iranian citizen who holds an Iranian passport, Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, pleaded not guilty last week in US District Court in New York in connection with the alleged plot. According to the US complaint, Arbabsiar admitted his role in a 1.5 million-dollar plot to kill the ambassador at a Washington restaurant by setting off explosives.

But many experts in Iranian affairs have questioned why Iran's Quds Force, which typically works through third parties such as Lebanon's Hezbollah, would reach out to Arbabsiar, a former used car salesman in Texas who is accused of seeking Mexican drug cartel hitmen to carry out the attack.

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