LONDON (AFP) – Iran is willing to help its foe the United States develop an “exit strategy” from Iraq, the country’s deputy foreign minister said in an interview published Wednesday.
Abbas Araghchi, speaking to the Financial Times business daily, also dismissed US allegations that Iran was supplying Iraqi insurgents with weapons, and added that no amount of pressure would convince Iran to give up its contested nuclear programme.
“Their invasion was a disaster — let there not be a disastrous withdrawal,” Aragchi told the paper.
“Yes, immediate withdrawal could lead to chaos, civil war. No one is asking for immediate withdrawal of foreign forces. But there should be a plan.”
Aragchi said, however, that the American presence in Iraq was part of the problem, telling the FT that Iraq is “suffering a vicious cycle.”
“There are foreign forces who have occupied Iraq and justify their presence under the pretext of the ‘war on terror’ and there are terrorists who claim they are fighting occupiers,” he said.
He said, as well, that American claims that Iran was supplying Iraqi insurgents were without basis: “They should stop blaming others for problems they have themselves created.”
“In fact, the number of weapons that have come into Iran from Iraq is high, as you can see by reading the crime pages of (Iranian) newspapers. Terrorist groups as well as criminals see Iraq as an opportunity.”
Aragchi also addressed Iran’s controversial uranium enrichment programme, which the country insists is for peaceful purposes, though Western powers say it can be used to produce an atomic bomb, and have slapped Iran with sanctions.
“There are two options — confrontation and co-operation …. What has been the result of three Security Council resolutions, two introducing sanctions?
“Iran has quickened the pace of peaceful activities and reduced its co-operation with the International Atomic Energy Agency … This can go on, but the result is an escalation of the crisis.”