News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqU.S. withdrawal needed for security, Iran tells Iraq

U.S. withdrawal needed for security, Iran tells Iraq

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Reuters: An end to violence in Iraq depends on the United States withdrawing its troops, Iran told Iraq’s prime minister on Thursday, seeking to deflect the blame for bloodshed that Washington directs at Tehran. By Fredrik Dahl

TEHRAN (Reuters) – An end to violence in Iraq depends on the United States withdrawing its troops, Iran told Iraq’s prime minister on Thursday, seeking to deflect the blame for bloodshed that Washington directs at Tehran.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, facing deepening political woes at home and U.S. criticism for lack of progress in bridging sectarian divisions, won pledges of support from Shi’ite Iran during a visit to Tehran.

With Shi’ite Muslims now in power also in Baghdad, ties between the two oil-rich countries have improved since U.S.-led forces in 2003 toppled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Arab who waged an eight-year war against Iran in the 1980s.

But the U.S. military accuses the Islamic Republic of arming and training militias behind some of the violence threatening to tear Iraq apart. Iran rejects the charge and blames the presence of U.S. forces, now numbering about 162,000, for the bloodshed.

Baghdad has urged both countries to negotiate and not fight out their differences on Iraqi soil.

“We regard Iraq’s security as our own security and that of the region,” Iranian First Vice-President Parviz Davoudi told Maliki as he was leaving Tehran, the IRNA news agency said.

“Establishment of stability and calm in Iraq depends on … the withdrawal of the occupying forces and an end to their interferences in Iraq and also on the authority of the government of Mr Maliki,” Davoudi said.

“ENEMIES’ PLOTS”

Maliki, who also held talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other senior officials, is facing mounting pressure to secure a power sharing deal among Iraq’s warring sects before a U.S. report in September on strategy in Iraq.

But his government is in crisis, with almost half the cabinet ministers quitting or boycotting meetings, and the death toll from sectarian killings is steadily climbing.

“We condemn the plot of the enemies of the two countries to create division and religious disputes and killings in Iraq,” Davoudi said.

Maliki’s visit came after Iraqi, Iranian and U.S. officials on Monday held the first meeting of a committee aimed at improving cooperation on stabilizing Iraq.

It was set up after landmark talks in Baghdad in May and July between Washington and Tehran, their most high-profile face-to-face dialogue since diplomatic ties were cut shortly after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

Analysts say Washington and Tehran, despite their mutual accusations, have a shared interest in ending the violence in Iraq. Iran wants a friendly government running a stable country while a secure Iraq would enable the United States to pull out.

During his visit, Maliki said: “The terrorists want to take control of our vast capabilities in political, economic and cultural fields but with God’s help we foil all their plots.”

Iran vowed to help provide Iraq with fuel during the winter and with building a refinery, IRNA said. Iraq’s oil industry has suffered huge damage during decades of sanctions and war.

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