TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Saturday that U.S.-Iran talks have helped improve security in Iraq but rejected claims that the Islamic Republic is fueling violence in its western neighbor, reported the state news agency.
Iran and the United States have held three rounds of talks about the security situation in Iraq, and in recent months U.S. officials have cited a dramatic drop in violence in the war torn country.
“The outcome of (U.S.-Iran) talks have helped stabilize conditions in Iraq a great deal,” IRNA quoted Ahmadinejad as telling Iraqi journalists in Tehran, a day ahead of his landmark visit to Iraq.
Iraqi ambassador to Tehran, Abu Haidar al-Sheikh, called on both Iran and the U.S. to upgrade their talks to the ministerial level rather than the ambassadorial level. “From Baghdad’s point of view, the talks should be upgraded to the level of foreign ministers without conditions. The correct path is for Iran and U.S. to resolve their problems at the negotiating table,” al-Sheikh was quoted by IRNA as saying Saturday.
Al-Sheikh said a fourth round of talks has been delayed due to “technical” complexities but hoped that Ahmadinejad’s visit to Iraq will help set a date for a new round of talks. However, the U.S. military still periodically accuses Iran of training, arming and funding Shiite extremists inside Iraq to kill American troops and on Saturday said they captured an Iranian-trained sniper instructor.
Ahmadinejad ridiculed the U.S. for such accusations, saying Iraq’s security was as important as Iran’s security. “Iran has no need to intervene in Iraq. It is friendly to all groups in Iraq. Isn’t it ridiculous that those who have deployed 160,000 troops in Iraq accuse us of intervening there?” he said.
U.S. accusations that Iran is fueling violence in Iraq are aimed at justifying its “defeat” in Iraq, said Ahmadinejad, and claimed that the continued U.S. occupation of Iraq was the reason behind violence there. “This is the temper of the Americans that they point fingers towards others wherever they are defeated … instability, divisions and tensions in Iraq result from the occupiers,” he said.
Ahmadinejad called on the U.S. to pull out from Iraq. “We believe the Iraqi people are able to provide their security and administer their own country. There is no need for foreign intervention,” he said.
Iraq and Iran were hostile to each other throughout Saddam Hussein’s regime and fought a long and destructive war during most of the 1980s. But when Saddam’s Sunni regime fell and Iraq’s Shiite majority took power after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, ties between the two countries flourished.
Iran’s growing influence in Iraq and its close relationship with the government in Baghdad has caused concern in the U.S.