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Government assures US ambassador she is safe in SA after assassination plot claims

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The SA government was responding to allegations that Lana Marks, the US ambassador, was on the Iranian radar to be killed as part of the Islamic republic’s revenge for the January 2020 killing of Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian army commander

US ambassador to South Africa Lana Marks. Picture: Jacques Naude / African News Agency (ANA)

THE SOUTH African government has assured the US ambassador based in Pretoria that she is safe.

The government, through its Department of State Security, was responding to allegations that Lana Marks, the US ambassador, was on the Iranian radar to be killed as part of the Islamic republic’s revenge for the January 2020 killing of Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian army commander.

Politico, an American news portal carried the news about the alleged plot and said the South African-born Marks is a target because she is very close to US President Donald Trump, who appointed her as ambassador. Its news report was based on information sourced from various US intelligence officials.

But the SA’s state security department says she is safe.

“The agency has noted the rising public interest on the matter and would like to assure all South African citizens and interested parties that the matter is receiving the necessary attention.

’’The agency is interacting with all relevant partners both in the country and abroad, to ensure that no harm will be suffered by the US Ambassador, including any other diplomatic officials inside the borders of our country,” the department said.

It added that Minister of State Security Ayanda Dlodlo said that they have a duty to protect all diplomatic officials who have been assigned by the countries to South Africa.

“It should be noted that the nature of the allegation and attendant threat doesn’t permit us to give any detailed updates on the investigations.

’’Reports thereon shall be provided to all the relevant authorities including the President of the Republic (Cyril Ramaphosa), the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation (Naledi Pandor) and relevant officials in the United States administration.”

Meanwhile, in a detailed response regarding these allegations, Saeed Khatibzadeh, the spokesperson for the Islamic republic’s foreign ministry, rebutted the claims as a pure fabrication by the Trump administration.

Khatibzadeh said the assassination allegations were part of ongoing anti-Iranian propaganda by the Americans.

He further described the report as “custom-ordered, biased and purposeful”, which cites the remarks made by a purportedly US government official in an attempt to make it look genuine.

“We advise the American officials to stop resorting to hackneyed and worn-out methods for anti-Iran propaganda in the international arena,” he cautioned.

The spokesperson of the US embassy in South Africa, Robert Mearkle, was asked to respond to Khatibzadeh’s allegations that Iran is being used to garner votes ahead of the US elections.

He was also asked whether they have beefed up security around Marks after learning about the alleged plot.

In response, Mearkle said: “Unfortunately, we have no comment for you at the moment on this matter.”