AFP: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted anew Saturday that the Iranian government be held responsible for the use of Iranian made weapons against US forces in neighboring Iraq, even if no direct link can be proven. BAGHDAD, Feb 17, 2007 (AFP) – US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted anew Saturday that the Iranian government be held responsible for the use of Iranian made weapons against US forces in neighboring Iraq, even if no direct link can be proven.
“I certainly can’t, and I don’t believe the US government can, give you chapter and verse about the involvement of the Iranian government,” Rice told reporters travelling with her on an unannounced visit to Baghdad.
“But I think you have to hold the Iranian government as a whole accountable for the activities of its constituent parts and that’s why we would appeal to the Iranian government to play a stabilizing role instead of a destabilizing role in Iraq,” she said.
The US military unveiled evidence earlier this week of Iranian-made weapons used in attacks on US troops in Iraq, including sophisticated roadside bombs blamed for the deaths of more than 170 American soldiers in recent months.
US officials say the weapons are brought into Iraq by the Qods special forces brigade of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the government’s elite security arm.
President George W. Bush has highlighted the Iranian government’s role in anti-US attacks in a recent escalation of aggressive rhetoric against the Islamic regime in Tehran.
But General Peter Pace, the head of the US military, said early this week that there was no evidence that Iran’s top leadership was involved in the arms smuggling, something Tehran also denies.
The Bush administration has steadfastly refused to hold direct talks with Iran over the situation in Iraq as long as Tehran refuses to comply with a UN resolution demanding it rein in its nuclear program.
But Rice said Washington had been in touch with Iran via the Iraqis and other “channels” in a bid to stabilize Iraq.
“We have channels that we have used from time to time and on this particular issue we have communicated to the Iranian government our concerns about these activities,” she said, without elaborating.
The US and Iran suspended diplomatic relations in 1979 but maintain “interest sections” in Swiss embassies which have been used in the past to exchange messages.
Rice also authorized the US ambassador in Baghdad at one point to deal with the Iranians solely on issues pertaining to Iraq, but US officials had said in the past that this channel was never activated.