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Influx of Iranians, weapons, undermining democracy in Iraq: US ambassador

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AFP: An influx of Iranians and Iranian weapons is hampering efforts to bring peace and democracy to violence-wracked Iraq, Washington’s ambassador to the country said Sunday. “Weapons and people coming across the border to undermine Iraq must be stopped, and we’re working with the Iraqis, including the prime minister, to make this message clear to the Iranians,” Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told CNN television. AFP

by Laurent Thomet

WASHINGTON – An influx of Iranians and Iranian weapons is hampering efforts to bring peace and democracy to violence-wracked Iraq, Washington’s ambassador to the country said Sunday.

“Weapons and people coming across the border to undermine Iraq must be stopped, and we’re working with the Iraqis, including the prime minister, to make this message clear to the Iranians,” Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told CNN television.

“We do oppose weapons and people seeking to undermine stability in Iraq coming across the border from Iran,” said Khalilzad, who also fingered Syria as fomenting trouble in Iraq.

Khalilzad said he did not oppose good relations between Iraq and neighboring Iran.

“But at the same time, there are Iranian activities that undermine the current system,” Khalilzad told ABC television in a separate interview.

“There are weapons that come across the Iranian border. There are people that come across from the Iranian border into Iraq. There are efforts by some in Iran to gain influence in parts of Iraq or in some of the institutions,” he said.

“We are aware of this. We are mindful of that. And we are working with the Iraqis to deal with it,” the ambassador said.

Khalilzad’s comments came as the US magazine Time reported in its online edition Sunday that Iran is backing a network of insurgents operating in Iraq.

Time, citing a US military intelligence document, reported that Iran is backing a man named Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani and his network of insurgents, which consists of 280 members, divided into 17 bomb-making teams and death squads.

Over the past eight months, Sheibani’s group has used a new type of roadside bomb, deadlier than any seen before, that is based on a design from Lebanon’s Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, the magazine said.

Time also said that a former Iraqi official and member of Saddam Hussein’s armored corps, Abu Hassan, said he was recruited by an Iranian intelligence agent last year to compile information of Interior Ministry officials in close contact with American military officers.

Hassan said the agent also wanted him to get someone inside then prime minister Iyad Allawi’s office without being searched, according to the magazine.
Western diplomats believe that information they give the Iraqi government is shared with Iran, Time said.

“We have to think anything we tell or share with the Iraqi government ends up in Tehran,” a Western diplomat was quoted as saying in the magazine.
Allawi told Time he believes Iranian agents plotted to assassinate him.

Time also reported that before the US-led invasion of Iraq, Iran devised a plan to gain influence in the neighboring country.

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