Iran on Monday blamed a Pakistan- based Sunni group for a suicide attack that killed 42 people in its south east and asked Islamabad to quickly arrest the leaders of the outfit whose extradition it demanded.
As relations between the two neighbours threatened to sour, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari called his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and condemned Sunday's suicide attack in which 42 people, including five senior officers of the elite Revolutionary Guard, were killed.
Jundullah, a Baloch Sunni group which operates in Siastan-Balochistan province in Iran and has links with Taliban in Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack.
"Iran and Pakistan have a brotherly relationship but the presence of terrorist elements in Pakistan is not justifiable," Ahmadinejad told Asif Ali Zardari.
"The Pakistani government should help to quicky arrest these criminals so they can be punished. The criminal terrorists must be seriously confronted by setting up a bilateral timetable," he was quoted as saying by Iran's official IRNA news agency.
"We've heard that some officers in Pakistan cooperate with the main elements behind such terrorist attacks and we consider it our right to demand these criminals from them," he was quoted as saying.
Iran plans to send a delegation to Pakistan to deliver "proof to them so they know that the Islamic Republic is aware of its (Pakistan) support" to the group led by Abdolmalek Rigi, whom Iran believes masterminded the attack.
General Mohammad Ali Jafari, head of the Revolutionary Guards, said Tehran will demand that Pakistan hand over militant rebel leader.
"The delegation will ask for him (Rigi) to be handed over," Jafari was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency. Zardari said the incident bore the "signatures of a cowardly enemy on the run." He assured that Pakistan will continue to support and cooperate with Iran in curbing militancy and fighting extremism and terrorism, the APP reported.
According to IRNA, Zardari agreed on setting up a timetable to confront the rebel group Jundallah. Iran's foreign ministry summoned the Pakistani charge d'affaires in Tehran and told him that "the perpetrators of this attack came to Iran from Pakistan," Iran's state-run media reported.
Earlier, Iran's Ambassador to Pakistan Mashallah Shakeri told reporters here that Rigi was present in the country. Jundallah's activities have emerged as an irritant in Pak-Iran ties. Iranian officials have complained on several occasions that Jundallah operatives are active in Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan, which borders Sistan-Baluchistan. PTI