Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has said an unnamed US-allied country in the Persian Gulf was behind an attack on a military parade that killed 25 people and wounded around 70.
Mr Rouhani did not identify those behind Saturday’s attack, which was claimed by an Arab separatist group.
He could have been referring to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates or Bahrain — close US military allies that view Iran as a regional menace over its support for militant groups across the Middle East.
“All of those small mercenary countries that we see in this region are backed by America. It is Americans who instigate them and provide them with necessary means to commit these crimes,” Mr Rouhani said.
Saturday’s attack, in which militants disguised as soldiers opened fire on an annual Iranian military parade in the oil-rich southwest, was the deadliest in the country in nearly a decade. Women and children scattered along with once-marching Revolutionary Guard soldiers as heavy gunfire rang out in Ahvaz.
The region’s Arab separatists, once only known for nighttime attacks on unguarded oil pipelines, claimed responsibility for the assault, and Iranian officials appeared to believe the claim.
Iran summoned diplomats from Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands early on Sunday for allegedly harbouring “members of the terrorist group” that launched the attack.
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi later said the UAE ambassador would be summoned over “partial statements” in support of the group behind the attack.
Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had earlier blamed regional countries and their “US masters” for funding and arming the separatists, issuing a stark warning as regional tensions remain high in the wake of the US withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal.
“Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defence of Iranian lives,” Mr Zarif wrote on Twitter.
The parade was one of many around the country marking the start of Iran’s long 1980s war with Iraq, commemorations known as the “Sacred Defence Week”.
The attack killed at least 25 people and wounded around 70, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.
At least eight of the dead served in the Revolutionary Guard, an elite paramilitary unit that answers only to Iran’s supreme leader, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency. State TV hours later reported that all four gunmen had been killed.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the attack as exposing “the atrocity and viciousness of the enemies of the Iranian nation.”
“Their crime is a continuation of the conspiracies by the US-backed regimes in the region which have aimed at creating insecurity in our dear country,” he said.