News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqIraqis don't need Iran to defend interests, Rice says

Iraqis don’t need Iran to defend interests, Rice says

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ImageAFP: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday rejected Iran's warnings that a draft security pact will hurt Iraq, saying the Iraqis can "defend their interests without the Iranians."

ImagePUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico (AFP) — US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday rejected Iran's warnings that a draft security pact will hurt Iraq, saying the Iraqis can "defend their interests without the Iranians."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the US-Iraq accord is aimed at keeping Iraq weak to help America "pillage" the country, as Interior Minister Ali Kordan said Tehran opposes any document that threatens Iraqi interests.

"I think the Iraqis can defend their interests without the Iranians, thank you very much," Rice told a press conference in Mexico when asked to comment on the remarks.

"That hasn't been the happiest relationship, ever," Rice said during a visit to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

"What the Iranians were doing was arming special groups in the south who were killing innocent Iraqis. So frankly I don't take these comments very seriously," said Rice, alongside Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa.

Rice then reiterated that "this is a good agreement," referring to the security pact that has been the subject of months of difficult negotiations with the Iraqis.

The draft deal to replace a UN mandate expiring this year calls for US combat forces to withdraw by the end of 2011 and includes US concessions on jurisdiction over its troops accused of "serious crimes" while off duty or off base.

Iraq's cabinet decided on Tuesday to seek certain revisions to the accord, triggering warnings from top US military and political figures about the risks of not agreeing a deal.

Rice said she had no update on the status of the agreement from US negotiators in Iraq, because she has been busy with her talks with Espinosa, which have focused on drug-related crime as well as economic and trade issues.

During a meeting in Jordan with his counterparts from Iraq, Turkey and Gulf Arab countries, Kordan, Iran's interior minister, said: "Iran opposes any document that goes against the will of Iraqis and their leadership.

"Iran opposes any document that would threaten Iraq's interests," he said.

He did not elaborate, but was apparently referring to the draft security accord.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday the pact seeks to keep Iraq weak to help America "pillage" the country.

The United States has accused accused Iran of "undermining" the deal.

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