NEW YORK (AP)—A Texas man pleaded guilty Wednesday to plotting to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, agreeing to hire what he thought was a drug dealer in Mexico last year for $1.5 million to carry out the attack with explosives at a Washington restaurant.
Manssor Arbabsiar, 58, entered the plea to two conspiracy charges and a murder-for-hire count in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, where Judge John F. Keenan repeatedly asked Arbabsiar whether he intended to kill the ambassador. Arbabsiar, a U.S. citizen who holds an Iranian passport, said he did.
Sentencing was set for Jan. 23, when Arbabsiar will face up to 25 years in prison. A trial had been scheduled for January.
President Barack Obama's administration has accused agents of the Iranian government of being involved in the plot.
At the plea, Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Kim asked Arbabsiar if officials in the Iranian military were involved in the plot. Arbabsiar said they were.
Arbabsiar, who lived in Corpus Christie, Texas, for more than a decade, said he went to Mexico last year to meet a man named Junior, "who turned out to be an FBI agent." He said that he and others had agreed to arrange the kidnapping of the ambassador, Adel Al-Jubeir, but Junior said it would be easier to kill the ambassador.
Authorities have said they secretly recorded conversations between Arbabsiar and an informant with the Drug Enforcement Administration after Arbabsiar approached the informant in Mexico and asked his knowledge of explosives for a plot to blow up the Saudi embassy in Washington. They said Arbabsiar later offered $1.5 million for the death of the ambassador.
Arbabsiar admitted Wednesday that he eventually made a $100,000 down payment wired from an overseas account through a Manhattan bank.