New York, Asharq Al-Awsat- A high-ranking Iranian official has stressed that his country’s influence is present in Iraq’s current political situation in Iraq and that Iranian Intelligence have had a presence in Iraq since the era of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The official, who was speaking during a lunch banquet with a group of journalists, said that Iran has friends in Iraq, including President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, and the parliament speaker; and has good relations with some political parties, including the Sunni forces. The Iranian official noted that Tehran decided to cancel the dialogue with Washington on the Iraqi affairs for many reasons, principal among which, as he said, is that “Iran does not want to justify the occupation and that the talks Washington wanted would sound as a justification for the occupation.”
He added: “We do not want to give the impression that the Iranians sold Iraq out in exchange for solving Iran’s crisis with the United States regarding its nuclear program.”
The Iranian official, who spoke with Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, revealed that the United States had addressed several messages to Iran through US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad to hold talks with it on the Iraqi affair. He explained that these messages were conveyed by Iraqi officials, especially President Jalal Talabani, and then through a letter addressed by Abdulaziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The official said that the US Administration set some preconditions for the dialogue, adding that “Iran realized that the dialogue would be useless.”
The Iranian official did not deny the active Iranian role in Iraq. He said: “It is not only Iran that is pumping money into Iraq. Many countries, including the United States and other neighboring countries, are pumping funds into Iraq to influence the political situation there.”
The official stressed that Tehran did not support the forces that are working to sabotage the political process and using violence. He said: “Iraq’s stability, unity, and independence are in Iran’s interest.”
On the Iranian nuclear file, the official stressed that Iran will not stop its uranium enrichment program. He said: “Iran needs 10.5 percent of enriched uranium to produce energy and fuel.” He expressed Tehran’s readiness to accept the deal which France, Britain, and Germany, in collaboration with Russia, are planning to put forward, provided it helps in solving the current crisis with the United States. The official stressed that “the deal should address the issues with the aim of solving the crisis and that Iran should be part of it.”
Iranian Ambassador to the United States Jawad Zarif said Iran “is ready to invite other countries to participate in its nuclear program, without even excluding the United States.” He also said that Iran has no intention to separate plutonium and that it is ready to take all the necessary measures to guarantee that no nuclear weapons are produced.
The Iranian official revealed that the Russian proposal for solving the nuclear crisis remains under the table, and that Tehran agreed to the Russian proposal after the visit of the National Security official to Moscow. He said: “Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was supposed to announce the agreement in Washington, but the Bush administration, for political reasons and in order to escalate the crisis, rejected the proposal, thus prompting Lavrov to remain silent.”