Trump thanks Albania for expelling Iranian diplomats

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump has thanked Albania for expelling the Iranian ambassador and another diplomat for allegedly engaging in illegal activities that threaten Albania’s security.

Trump’s letter to Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, dated Dec. 14, thanked him “for your steadfast efforts to stand up to Iran and to counter its destabilizing activities and efforts to silence dissidents around the globe.”

The U.S. Embassy in Tirana published the letter on its Facebook page on Thursday.

Albania’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said the two diplomats were expelled for “violating their diplomatic status” following talks with other countries, including Israel.

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Trump’s letter said the expulsion “exemplifies our joint efforts to show the Iranian government that its terrorist activities in Europe and around the world will have severe consequences.”

Iran blamed the United States and Israel for the expulsions. The official IRNA news agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi as saying that “Albania has become an unintentional victim of the United States, Israel and some terrorist groups.”

The spokesman said the U.S. and Israel are working to destroy relations between Iran and European countries, and that Albania should not allow others to dictate its relations with Tehran.

Shahin Gobadi of Iran’s National Council of Resistance based in Paris, France, also hailed Albania’s expulsion of the two diplomats as “a very necessary and courageous act.”

Albania is home to 2,500 members of the Iranian opposition group in exile Mujahedin-e Khalk, who moved from Iraq.

Gobadi said “The clerical regime’s embassies in Europe are centers of terrorist acts against the dissidents.”

He said two plots of the Iranian regime were foiled, one in Albania — an attempt to bomb the Nowruz (Iranian New Year) celebration in March — and the other in a gathering of Iranians in Paris in June, and “the regime*s embassies and diplomats played a major role in both of these foiled terror plots.”

Private Top Channel television reported that the Iranians were suspected of illegal activities related to a World Cup qualifying match between Albania and Israel two years ago.

Albanian media also hinted that cancellation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Albania in November could have been related to a possible plot against him.

Earlier this year, a court in neighboring Kosovo sentenced nine Albanians for planning a foiled attack against the Israeli soccer team during the match in Albania.

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