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US official: Iraqis to urge Iran to stop backing militias

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ImageAP: Iraqi leaders are hoping to pressure Iran to stop aiding militias in Iraq by presenting Tehran with the latest evidence of weapons and training crossing the border, a senior defense official said Wednesday.

The Associated Press

By LOLITA C. BALDOR

ImageMEXICO CITY (AP) — Iraqi leaders are hoping to pressure Iran to stop aiding militias in Iraq by presenting Tehran with the latest evidence of weapons and training crossing the border, a senior defense official said Wednesday.

It is not known yet whether the Iranians agreed to the meeting. But the official said the Iraqis want to try let Iran know that the support is not helpful and should be stopped. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

According to the official, plans to roll out the evidence of Iranian support for the militias during a public briefing have been delayed to give the Iraqis time to speak directly to Tehran about the problem.

U.S. officials have recently escalated their complaints about the weapons and training that Iran — largely members of Tehran's elite Republican Guard — is providing to militants. The problem was underscored during the recent fighting in Basra.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is meeting with Mexican leaders, said Tuesday that the U.S. is not laying the groundwork for an attack against Iran. And his spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters Wednesday that he is not aware of any "ramping up or revision" of war plans for Iran at the Pentagon.

U.S. Military officials have said that the evidence includes caches of weapons that have date stamps showing they were produced in Iran this year.

The weapons to be presented will include mortars, rockets, small arms, roadside bombs and armor-piercing explosives — known as explosively formed penetrators or EFPs — that troops have discovered in recent months, according to another senior military official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the evidence has not yet been made public.

The U.S. very briefly had two Navy aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf this week — a move that Gates said Tuesday could be seen as a "reminder" to Iran. The Pentagon has routinely said that moving ships to the Gulf is a way of showing countries there that the U.S. remains committed to the region.

At the Pentagon, defense officials said the USS Abraham Lincoln entered the Gulf in a normal rotation of forces, not as an addition of force. The carrier that the Lincoln replaced, the USS Harry Truman, has now left the Gulf and is en route to its home base at Norfolk, Va. The two carriers were together in the Gulf for only one day, as is common during a rotation, the officials said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because details about ship movements are considered classified.

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