Fri, Feb 02, 2007 - Page 7 News List

US warns Tehran to stop helping Iraqi insurgents

STRUGGLE While the US said Iran was giving explosives to Shiite insurgents, the Iraqi prime minister told the US and Iran to work out their problems outside his country

AGENCIES , WASHINGTON

Iran is supplying Iraqi insurgents with weapons technology used to kill US troops, a senior US diplomat said on Wednesday, sending another warning to Iran against interfering in Iraq.

"We have picked up individuals who we believe are giving very sophisticated explosive technology to Shia [Shiite] insurgent groups who then use that technology to target and kill American soldiers," Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said.

"It's a very serious situation. And the message from the United States is, Iran should cease and desist," he said.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Wednesday warned the US and Iran to take their quarrel elsewhere, saying that he would not permit his battered country to be caught in the crossfire.

Maliki's remarks, in an interview with CNN, came days after it emerged that President George W. Bush had approved US action against Iranian agents in Iraq.

"There is a struggle between Iran and America, and we have told the Iranians and Americans, we know that you have a problem with each other," Maliki said, through a translator.

"But we're asking you please, solve your problems outside of Iraq. We do not want the American forces to take Iraq as a field to attack Iran or Syria, and we will not accept Iran to use Iraq to attack the American forces," he said.

Maliki, who faces extreme skepticism among Bush's critics in the US over his role in the new US plan to pacify Iraq, said his country had nothing to do with the long diplomatic chill between Tehran and Washington.

"We are ready to pay efforts to solve the problems between them if it is possible," Maliki said.

"We will not let Iran play a role against the American army and not allow America to play a role against the Iranian army. Everyone should respect the sovereignty of Iraq," he added.

The US has been tracking Iranian involvement in Iraqi insurgent attacks for about two years and has found increasing evidence that Iran has given assistance to Shiite in Southern Iraq, Burns said in an interview with NPR taped for broadcast yesterday.

"They have attacked British soldiers near Basra and they've now begun to mount those operations throughout the country -- at least in the Baghdad region as well," Burns said.

Washington officials have charged that Iran is providing Shiites with high-grade explosives capable of tearing through the armor on military vehicles.

The Bush administration has repeatedly warned Iran against fueling violence in Iraq and US forces have detained a number of Iranian officials in raids over the past month.

"We warned Iran privately on a number of occasions over the last year and a half and the Iranians, of course, did not appear to listen to that, so now we've begun to detain those Iranian officials," Burns said in the interview.

"We think it's absolutely within our rights to do so under Article 51 of the UN charter, which is self-defense," he said.

Washington accuses Tehran of undermining efforts to stabilize Iraq and of pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear ambitions are for generating electricity.

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