Sun, May 18, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Iran blames US after diplomats are shot in Baghdad

AP , BAGHDAD

Iran angrily blamed the US on Friday after at least three of its diplomats were wounded in a Baghdad shooting, saying the US was encouraging attacks on Iranians in Iraq.

The shooting — which may have been by Iraqi soldiers during an argument at a checkpoint — comes amid unprecedented strains between Iran and the Iraqi government, which has long been close to Tehran.

In recent weeks, Iranian officials have complained that Iraq’s Shiite-dominated leadership is bowing too much to Washington. The tensions have been fueled in part by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s crackdowns in the past two months against Shiite militiamen that the US accuses Iran of backing, a claim Tehran denies.

The shooting occurred on Thursday as the Iranians’ convoy approached a bridge leading to a revered Shiite shrine in the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Kazimiyah.

An Iraqi Interior Ministry official said Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint on the bridge exchanged fire with the convoy’s guards in an argument that broke out when most of the Iranians failed to produce identification cards.

Iranian Embassy spokesman Manoucher Taslimi said he did not know who the gunmen were. Taslimi said two Iranian diplomats, another Iranian and an Iraqi administrative employee were wounded and were now in stable condition.

The ministry official said five people were wounded.

Lieutenant David Russell, a US. military spokesman in Baghdad, said the Iraqi army had found four wounded Iranians in a vehicle with an Iraqi driver. The discrepancy in numbers could not immediately be reconciled.

In Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini blasted the US, saying its harsh rhetoric against Iran fuels attacks on Iranians. US statements “encourage inhuman behavior by occupiers and terrorist groups active in Iraq,” he said.

“Responsibility for providing security to diplomats as well as diplomatic and international bodies in Iraq rests with the occupiers. The suspicious behavior of US forces in security issues has brought increasing insecurity in Iraq,” he said in a statement.

Hosseini said Iran will pursue the case with Iraqi government officials.

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