-- WASHINGTON — Two men, including a naturalized U.S. citizen from Iran, were charged Tuesday in a terror plot "conceived, supported and directed" by elements of the Iranian government to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States while he was at a restaurant in the nation's capital, Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday.
The plot was foiled by U.S. drug agents in Mexico and a paid informant posing as a willing co-conspirator, recruited from the ranks of a drug-trafficking cartel.
Holder said Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir was never in danger because the plot was monitored by the U.S. undercover agents from the time it was first outlined during a May meeting in Mexico between an informant working for the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. suspect. The attack, Holder said, was to be the first salvo in a series of assaults.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the plot "crosses a line" in Iran's state sponsorship of terrorism and will further isolate the Islamic republic.
Clinton said she and President Obama were reaching out to other countries to work against what is becoming a "clearer and clearer threat" from Iran.
The Saudi Embassy in Washington called the alleged assassination plot a "despicable violation of international norms, standards and conventions and is not in accord with the principles of humanity." But the Saudi release made no mention of the Iranian government.
Iran, meanwhile, denied the allegations, saying the U.S. government was "fabricating problems" to take the focus off America's domestic woes.
Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, described in court documents as a U.S. citizen holding both Iranian and U.S. passports, was charged along with Gholam Shakuri, an Iran-based member of the country's Quds Force, a special operations unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a paramilitary arm of the government.
Both men were charged with conspiracies to murder a foreign official, to use a weapon of mass destruction, to commit an act of international terrorism and to travel internationally as part of a murder-for-hire plot.
Holder said Arbabsiar, who has a residence in Round Rock, Texas, was arrested last month at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York after he was refused entry into Mexico where he was allegedly scheduled to finalize the assault plan with the U.S. informant.
Arbabsiar allegedly confessed to U.S. investigators, saying he was "recruited, funded and directed by men he understood to be senior officials in Iran's Quds Force," according to court documents.