Wed, Oct 10, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Tehran reopens Kurdish-run borders

PROTEST The crossings were opened after a delegation complained the region should not be punished for what Americans did, as a US-Iraqi commission reviewed security

AP, BAGHDAD

Iran on Monday reopened five border crossing points with Kurdish-run northern Iraq, closed last month by Tehran to protest the US detention of an Iranian official as the US steps up allegations that the Iranians are fueling the violence in Iraq.

Car and truck bombs killed at least 24 people in Baghdad and north of the capital, including a blast near the Polish embassy, five days after an assassination attempt in the same area severely wounded the Polish ambassador.

The deadliest bombing occurred in Dijlah, a village near Samarra in the Sunni heartland, 95km north of Baghdad, when an attacker drove his explosives-laden truck into a police station, killing at least 13 people.

Nobody claimed responsibility for the attacks but they bore the hallmarks of al-qaeda in Iraq, which has promised an offensive to coincide with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The Iranian border points were closed to protest the US detention of an Iranian official who the military said was a member of the paramilitary Quds Force, a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards that is accused of providing arms and training to Shiite extremists.

Ratcheting up the rhetoric, top US commander General David Petraeus claimed this weekend that the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, was a member of the Quds Force.

"The Quds Force controls the policy for Iraq; there should be no confusion about that either," Petraeus told CNN and other reporters during a trip to a military base on the Iranian border. "The ambassador is a Quds Force member. Now he has diplomatic immunity and therefore he is obviously not subject and he is acting as a diplomat."

Petraeus did not provide details on how he knew Qomi, who has held talks in Baghdad with US Ambassador Ryan Crocker, belonged to the Quds Force, and the Iranian Foreign Ministry rejected the allegations.

"These are not new comments. Similar accusations were raised, formerly. It is baseless and not right," ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters in Tehran.

TWO ALLIES

The Iraqis have found themselves caught between two allies as they struggle to balance the interests of their main sponsor the US military and Iran, a major regional ally. Iran holds considerable sway in Iraq as both countries have majority Shiite populations and many members of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's ruling Shiite bloc have close ties with Tehran.

The border points, which had been shut down on Sept. 24, were reopened after a Kurdish delegation traveled to Iran to complain the region should not be punished for something the Americans did. Iraqi and Iranian authorities have claimed that the detained Iranian, Mahmoud Farhadi, was in Iraq on official business and demanded his release.

A spokesman for the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq, Jamal Abdullah, expressed hope the resumed flow of traffic and goods would help reduce price hikes that had plagued the region since the closures.

The reopening is in the "economic interests of both countries," Abdullah said, adding that Tehran and Baghdad share the responsibility to "prevent gunmen from having access to either side of the border."

The friction comes at a time when Iraqi-US relations also are strained over the Sept. 16 killing of Iraqi civilians allegedly by security guards from Blackwater USA, which protects US diplomats in Iraq.

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