AFP: General David Petraeus, commander of US forces in Iraq, on Thursday reaffirmed his concern about Iran's role in unrest in Iraq after a meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
LONDON (AFP) — General David Petraeus, commander of US forces in Iraq, on Thursday reaffirmed his concern about Iran's role in unrest in Iraq after a meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Petraeus also gave his his backing to Baghdad's efforts to broker a deal with radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
Speaking after an hour-long meeting with Brown, Petraeus said there was widespread concern about Iranian backing for attacks against the coalition in Iraq, despite the Islamic republic's denials.
But he said the Shia-led Iraqi government "has very rightly" sent a delegation to try to end clashes between coalition troops and fighters loyal to Sadr who have been "armed, trained and equipped" by Iran.
Sadr, however, refused to hold talks on Thursday with the Iraqi members of parliament who had gone to Iran to try to end clashes between his fighters and troops, a spokesman for the cleric told AFP in Najaf, Iraq.
Petraeus said: "The important focus has to be on the way ahead and Iran truly wanting its neighbour to the west… a fellow Shia-led government, to succeed, so there can be a constructive relationship."
He added: "I think it's very important to recognise that the Sadr trend, as a political movement, has every reason to be engaged in the political spectrum, in the political arena, in Iraq.
"It represents an important constituency in the citizenry of Iraq.
"But clearly it cannot have a militia that cloaks itself in the name of this respected martyr who gave the name to the movement and carried out what are very, very lethal activities and have been very harmful to the Iraqi public."
Petraeus was joined at the Downing Street meeting by the US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, and Washington's top diplomat in London, Robert Tuttle.
The general said discussions touched upon events in Iraq, where Britain has about 4,100 troops, based just outside the southern port city of Basra.