- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 7, 2012

NEW DELHI Police arrested an Indian journalist to investigate possible links to the bombing of an Israeli diplomatic vehicle last month in New Delhi, authorities said Wednesday, the first apparent breakthrough in an attack that Israel blamed on Iran.

The Press Trust of India said the suspect had claimed to work for an Iranian news organization, a report Indian police declined to confirm. His lawyer said he had taken at least one reporting trip to Iran on behalf of India’s state broadcaster.

Though Indian authorities have not implicated Iran in the bombing, any leads that point in that direction could complicate India’s delicate efforts to ward off growing Western pressure and maintain its strong economic ties with Tehran.

Energy-starved India remains a large market for Iranian oil, and those purchases could blunt the effect of intensified sanctions being imposed by the U.S. and European Union to force Iran to roll back its nuclear ambitions.

India finds itself between a rock and a hard place over Iran,” said Arundhati Ghose, a retired Indian diplomat. “It’s a tough call for the government, but one that New Delhi will have to confront eventually.”

Police arrested Syed Mohammed Kazmi on Tuesday after investigations showed he had been in touch with a suspect they believe may have stuck a magnetic bomb on an Israeli diplomat’s car, police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said.

Police said they searched Mr. Kazmi’s house over the past two days to gather evidence that might link him to the Feb. 13 attack, which wounded the diplomat’s wife, her driver and two other people in a nearby car. Police did not say what evidence they found.

Mr. Kazmi, 50, appeared Wednesday in court, where a judge allowed the police to hold him for questioning until March 27.

“My client has been falsely implicated. He is not an international terrorist,” Mr. Kazmi’s lawyer, Vijay Aggarwal, told reporters.

Mr. Aggarwal said Mr. Kazmi is a journalist who had traveled to Iran while covering the Iraq war for state television and reported on issues relating to Iran. He did not elaborate or clarify when Mr. Kazmi had been in Iran.

The New Delhi blast came the same day a bomb was discovered on an Israeli diplomat’s car in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

The next day, three Iranians accidentally blew up their house in Thailand, and Israeli authorities said the similarity between their explosives and the two earlier bombs linked Iran to all three incidents.

Indian officials have refused to assign blame while the investigation continues.

Israel has accused Iran of waging a covert campaign of state terrorism and has threatened military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities.