Truth From Unsavory Sources
Iran promises security help for Iraq
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer Thu Aug 9, 11:01 AM ET
TEHRAN, Iran - Iranian officials told Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Thursday that they were doing everything they could to help stabilize his nation, but only a U.S. pullout would bring true peace.
Al-Maliki's three-day trip is aimed at enlisting Iranian help in calming Iraq's turmoil. The Bush administration wants the U.S.-backed Shiite leader to use his close ties with predominantly Shiite Iran to help end what they call Tehran's support for militia that attack American soldiers and Sunni civilians in Iraq.
But the first two days appeared to bring no concessions from America's greatest rival in the region. Instead, Iranian officials used the spotlight to decry American involvement in Iraq, and promote their increasingly close ties to al-Maliki's government.
"Establishment of peace and tranquility in Iraq depends on withdrawal of occupiers and their avoidance of interfering in Iraq," Vice President Parviz Davoodi told reporters after talks with al-Maliki, who was expected to meet later in the day with Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iraqi officials have not said whether al-Maliki is pressing Iran on the claims, which his government has only partially backed, saying it doesn't rule out an Iranian role in the attacks.
Iran has denied the charges, most recently on Thursday at a gathering in Damascus, Syria, of officials from Iraq and its neighbors, as well as the United States and other countries.
"There is no evidence on this subject. We have held talks with the Americans in Baghdad aimed at helping the Iraqi government and people. ... We are serious about this issue," said Mohammad Firouznia, the head of the Iranian delegation to the gathering.
In their meetings with al-Maliki, Iranian officials also promised their support for Iraq's security.
"We hope we can achieve stability in Iraq, because we believe security in Iraq will ensure the same for Iran and the region," Davoodi said. "Iran is sparing no efforts to achieve political and security stability in Iraq."
But they made clear in the talks that U.S. forces should go, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said.
"The United States won't get out of the complex situation it has created for itself in Iraq unless it corrects its policies," Mottaki said, according to the official Iranian news agency IRNA. He said that when Iraqi forces run security instead of the Americans, "one can be hopeful that effective steps will be taken and that one can be hopeful of talks in the future."
On Wednesday evening, al-Maliki had a warm meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, walking hand-in-hand with him into an ornate meeting room.
Ahmadinejad described the current situation as "very sensitive," IRNA said. "Iran and Iraq have a heavy responsibility for establishing peace and security in the region," he said.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, said Ahmadinejad had expressed support for continuing talks between Iranian and American officials in Baghdad about stabilizing Iraq.
"We understood from the (Iranian) president that there is a real desire to continue this dialogue and especially on the borders issue," Zebari said, referring to cross-border movement of militants.
Iraqi and Iranian officials also sought to increase economic ties between the two country, which already have been growing.
Under some of the deals being worked on, Iran would build a power station in the Shiite Sadr City enclave and supply Iraq directly with electricity. Iran would also provide 400,000 tons of kerosene and liquid gas this year.
Sadr City has been the scene of fierce fighting between the U.S. and Shiite militants, most recently on Wednesday, when U.S. aircraft and soldiers attacked Shiite militia bomb makers accused of links to Iran. The U.S. military said 32 suspected militants were killed and 12 were captured.
The strike in Sadr City sought to target a ring believed to be smuggling armor-piercing roadside bombs from Iran. The precision-crafted explosives have become a growing threat to American troops.