Iran accuses US of terrorism in Iraq
* Mottaki slams detention of Iranians by American forces
SHARM EL-SHEIKH: Iran accused the United States of terrorist acts in Iraq during an international meeting on Friday aimed at discussing security cooperation in the war-torn country.
“To create a safe haven for those terrorists who try to turn Iraqi territory into a base for attacking Iraq’s neighbours should be condemned,” Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said at the conference.
A spokesman for the Iranian delegation at the two-day conference on Iraq being held in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh confirmed that Mottaki was referring to the United States.
“Mr Mottaki was referring to countries which, like the United States, carry out acts of terrorism in Iraq,” he said. “When the United States arrests five Iranian diplomats in Iraq, it is an act of terrorism,” he said on condition of anonymity.
The US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, told reporters at the Pentagon that American forces were holding seven Iranians captured in Iraq as suspected members of the covert Qods Forces of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
In his speech Mottaki described the detention of the Iranians as a “brazen contravention of international conventions, the breach of Iraq’s sovereignty and obvious dishonouring of the Iraqi people and government”. He also called for the immediate release of the Iranians detained in northern Iraq by US troops in January.
Mottaki said the US must accept responsibility for the terrorism and violence resulting from its “occupation” of Iraq. He said that the US should present a clear plan to withdraw its forces “in order to allow the return of peace and stability”.
Mottaki’s speech angered the Iraqi delegation, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. His comments were just “to settle accounts,” said one al-Maliki aide, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We didn’t expect it to be in this manner.”
Mottaki told the delegates that “the continuation of and increase in terrorist acts in Iraq originates from the flawed approaches adopted by the foreign troops. Thus, in our view, the continuation of occupation lies at the origin of the crisis.”
“The US must accept the responsibilities arising from the occupation of Iraq, and should not finger point or put the blame on others,” he said. Separately, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said that Iran and the US met at expert level on the sidelines of the conference in Egypt.
“A meeting took place on the sidelines of the meeting, not at foreign minister level but at expert level, between the American side and the Iranian side,” he told a news conference.
Zebari added: “I don’t know what went on in that meeting (of experts) but I think it was a positive sign that at least such a thing did take place while we are here.
“This is a process I think. It needs more work. There is a lot of suspicion. There is a lot of mistrust. But it is in my country’s interest really to see a reduction of this tension.”
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the meeting was “the beginning hopefully of a process”, adding that the officials who met were ambassadors. He did not identify them. agencies