Iran’s state television says the country’s supreme leader has warned visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki about a US-Iraq security deal that will allow US troops to stay in Iraq for three more years.
The Sunday report quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying the US and its promises could not be trusted and that Iraqis could only “feel relief” when the Americans leave their country.
Khamenei has final say on all state matters in Iran.
The US-Iraq accord gives the Iraqis oversight over US military operations and limited judicial jurisdiction over US soldiers and civilian Pentagon contractors while off-duty and off-base.
The US and Iran have been at sharp odds since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Meanwhile, A woman hiding among Iranian pilgrims with a bomb strapped under her black robe killed more than three dozen people Sunday outside a Baghdad mosque during ceremonies commemorating the death of one of Shiite Islam’s most revered saints.
The suicide attack, the most recent in a series that has killed more than 60 people in less than a week, was the latest to mar the transfer of many security responsibilities from the US military to Iraqi forces.
Iraqi security forces have deployed thousands of troops in Baghdad and in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, just south of the capital, to safeguard against attacks during the ceremonies. Attacks by al-Qaeda in Iraq, Sunni insurgents and even a Shiite cult have killed hundreds of people in recent years.
The attack in Baghdad’s northern Shiite neighborhood of Kazimiyah, which wounded at least 72 people, comes two days after a suicide bomber slipped into a luncheon at a tribal leader’s home south of Baghdad and killed at least 23 people. More than a dozen other people have died in other attacks since New Year’s Day.
The Iraqi military held parades to mark the anniversary of its founding 88 years ago and to celebrate a security agreement with the US that went into effect on Jan. 1. The agreement replaced a UN mandate that allowed the US and other foreign troops to operate in Iraq.
Under the new agreement, US troops will no longer conduct unilateral operations and will act only in concert with Iraqi forces. They must also leave major Iraqi cities by June and withdraw all troops by the end of 2011.
In another sign of the transition in authority, the US military on Sunday handed over to the Iraqi government control in Diyala Province of about 9,000 Sons of Iraq, a predominantly Sunni group of former insurgents and tribesmen whose revolt against al-Qaeda in Iraq gave a significant boost to security in the turbulent province and helped turn the tide in the war against the terror group.
The US paid the group’s estimated 90,000 members countrywide about US$300 a month. Eventually, the members are to be either integrated into the Iraqi military and police, or provided civilian jobs and vocational training.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani told Iraqi army troops during a parade marking Army Day that “the Iraqi army has gained the trust of government and Iraqi people as the army of all Iraqis.”
The military parade, which included recently purchased US military equipment and armored vehicles, was the first since the US-Iraq agreement went into effect on Jan. 1.