AFP: Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed Israel and the United States on Saturday for persistent violence in Iraq after two suicide attacks left scores of Iranian pilgrims dead.
TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed Israel and the United States on Saturday for persistent violence in Iraq after two suicide attacks left scores of Iranian pilgrims dead.
"The American and Israeli intelligence apparatuses are the number-one accused… for the spread of the poisonous seeds of terrorism in Iraq," Khamenei said in a message of condolence to the victims' families broadcast on state television.
"Those evil brains and sinful hands that established this blind, unbridled terrorism in Iraq should know that this fire will end up burning them," the Iranian leader added.
Twenty Iranian pilgrims were among at least 65 people killed when two women suicide bombers attacked a Shiite shrine in Baghdad on Friday. Some 80 Iranians were among the 120 people wounded.
Another 52 Iranian pilgrims were among at least 56 people killed in a suicide attack on a roadside restaurant in Muqdadiyah, northeast of Baghdad, the previous day.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Khamenei's remarks "disappointing" and blamed the attacks on "Al-Qaeda remnants and other violent groups who wish to disrupt the progress of Iraq."
"The United States and Iraq are partners in that progress and we are going to continue to be partners," she told reporters in Baghdad. "And we hope that all of Iraq's neighbours will assist Iraq in achieving its goals."
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, speaking at the same press conference, also rejected the accusations.
"According to our experience with terrorists and suicide bombers who blow themselves up, we have never had an American do this sort of thing in the past," he said.
Hundreds of thousands of Iranians visit Iraq's Shiite holy sites each year despite the threat of violence from Sunni extremists.
Shiite majority Iran has consistently demanded the withdrawal of US-led forces from Iraq and blames the continuing US military presence for the persistent bloodshed.
Washington in turn accuses Tehran of fomenting sectarian violence in Iraq.