March 9, 2019 / 4:47 PM / 12 days ago

Iran's Rouhani urges Pakistan to act against group behind border attack

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on Saturday for “decisive” action by Pakistan against a militant group behind a deadly suicide attack in a border area, saying failure to act could jeopardise relations.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is seen during a public speech in the northern province of Gilan, Iran March 6, 2019. Official President website/Handout via REUTERS

Iran’s state news agency IRNA said Rouhani’s remarks were made during a telephone conversation with neighbouring Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, who said he would soon have “good news” for Iran, according to the report.

A suicide bomber killed 27 members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards in mid-February in a southeastern region where security forces are facing a rise in attacks by militants from the Sunni Muslim minority.

The Sunni group Jaish al Adl (Army of Justice), which says it seeks greater rights and better living conditions for the ethnic Baluchi minority, claimed responsibility for the attack.

“We are awaiting your decisive operations against these terrorists,” IRNA quoted Rouhani as telling Khan.

“We should not allow decades of friendship and fraternity between the two countries to be affected by the actions of small terrorist groups, the source of whose financing and arms is known to both of us,” Rouhani said.

Iran has blamed its regional rival Saudi Arabia and arch-enemies Israel and the United States for the attack and other cross-border raids, an accusation rejected by the countries.

Khan said Pakistani forces had come close to the attackers’ hideout and there would soon be “good news” for Iran, IRNA reported.

“It is in Pakistan’s own interest not to allow our territory to be used by terrorist groups, and the Pakistani army is prepared to confront the terrorists more decisively with the information provided by Iran,” IRNA quoted Khan as saying.

Revolutionary Guards commanders have vowed to retaliate for the attack, and Rouhani said on Saturday that Iranian forces were “ready to give a decisive answer to the terrorists in coordination with Islamabad,” IRNA reported.

In September, the Revolutionary Guards fired missiles at an Iraqi-based Iranian Kurdish dissident group that killed at least 11 people in an attack in a western border area.

In October, Iran fired missiles at Islamic State militants in Syria, whom it blamed for an attack that killed 25 people on its soil.

Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Ros Russell and Helen Popper

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