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Man pleads guilty in plot to kill Saudi ambassador

NEW YORK — A Texas man pleaded guilty on Wednesday to plotting to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, agreeing to hire a man 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, 57, entered the plea to two conspiracy charges and a murder-for-hire count in US District Court in Manhattan, where Judge John F. Keenan repeatedly asked Arbabsiar whether he intended to kill the ambassador. Arbabsiar, a US citizen who holds an Iranian passport, said he did.

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Sentencing was set for Jan. 23, when defense lawyers are likely to ask for leniency, citing their claims that Arbabsiar is bipolar. He faces up to 25 years in prison.

Assistant US Attorney Edward Kim asked Arbabsiar if Iranian military officials based in Iran were involved in the plot. Arbabsiar said they were.

Arbabsiar admitted that he was directed by Iranian military officials to go to Mexico on multiple occasions from the spring to the fall of last year to arrange the assassination.

Arbabsiar, who lived in Corpus Christi, Texas, for more than a decade, said he met a man in Mexico named Junior, ‘‘who turned out to be an FBI agent.’’

The agent was actually a Drug Enforcement Administration confidential source posing as a representative of a drug cartel.

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