Iran brushes off accusations that it is interfering in Iraq

Official urges Washington to cooperate with Tehran

Postwar Iraq

April 25, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

TEHRAN - Iran yesterday brushed off accusations by Washington that it was interfering in Iraq, saying that the United States was the one occupying the country and should be looking to cooperate with Tehran rather than rebuking it.

"It is very interesting that the Americans have occupied Iraq, but they accuse Iraq's neighbor of interfering into its affairs," Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said.

"Instead of raising accusations, the United States should adopt cooperation with Iran," Kharrazi added at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin of France.

"The United States should welcome Iran's positive role. Iran can play such a role because of its neighboring position with Iraq."

De Villepin arrived in Tehran on Wednesday, with an agenda for talks that included postwar Iraq and working toward a solution to the Palestinian and Israeli conflict.

They will also discuss the issue of human rights in Iran and its efforts to develop nuclear technology.

The United States blames Iran for the recent ferocious anti-American sentiments in Iraq that are being voiced by Shiite Muslims and some Sunnis in Baghdad.

It has said that Iranian agents have crossed into Iraq to promote friendly Shiite clerics in Basra, Karbala and Najaf and advance Iran's interests. The agents are said to be members of the Iraqi Badr Brigade and Iran's hard-line Revolutionary Guards.

The Badr Brigade is the armed force of the Iraqi opposition group of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite group that has enjoyed the support of the Iranian government and is trained by the Revolutionary Guards.

Kharrazi denied that Iran had meddled with Iraq or that there were Iranians in the Iraqi Badr Brigade.

However, he said that the Badr Brigade was an Iraqi movement and it was natural for its members to be inside Iraq and play a role in the future of their country.

Kharrazi further voiced concern over reports of a cease-fire deal between American forces and the Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedeen al Khalq, in Iraq.

The group is the main armed opposition against Iran and is listed by the United States and Europe as a terrorist organization. It has been in Iraq since 1986 and waged terror attacks against the Iranian government.

"If this news that they can stay in Iraq and keep their arms is correct, it will expose the Americans' plans for the region and it would be contrary to international law," Kharrazi said. "The United States should be responsible for this."

De Villepin expressed hope that France could contribute to the political, economic and social reconstruction of Iraq. He also stressed the pivotal role of the United Nations.

De Villepin's visit came after France's recent efforts to mend relations with United States, including one from the French ambassador to the United Nations, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, in which he called for an end to economic sanctions against Iraq.

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