Press Association: US General David Petraeus urged Iran to stop backing extremist groups that contribute to ongoing violence in Iraq, and said the US is watching Tehran "very, very closely."
The Press Association
US General David Petraeus urged Iran to stop backing extremist groups that contribute to ongoing violence in Iraq, and said the US is watching Tehran "very, very closely."
The commander of the region that includes both countries also told a US-Islamic world forum in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar that the US is looking for signs that Iran is willing to co-operate, echoing gestures of openness expressed by the Obama administration.
However, he was firm when asked what concrete steps Iran could take to improve relations. Foremost on his list was that there be an end to the "training, equipping, funding of extremist elements" in the region, particularly in Iraq.
"It was not just Sunni extremists that were tearing apart the country. This was a cycle of Sunni-on-Shia, and Shia-on-Sunni," he said in an allusion to Iran's support for Shiite Muslim groups.
"One of the elements fuelling that violence was indeed the assistance provided by Iran," he continued. "There is absolutely no question about this, and there is also no question that some of this does continue to this day."
Iran has consistently denied the charge.
Attacks against US troops in Shiite areas of Iraq have fallen off sharply. In December the Pentagon said Iran was no longer supplying a lethal brand of armour-piercing roadside bombs, which US officials said suggested a strategic shift by Iran's leadership.
Speaking at the same forum, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright called the war in Iraq a "great disaster for American foreign policy."
"I am concerned about what Iraq has done to America's reputation," she said. "I have been very worried about what the war in Iraq did in order to enhance the power of Iran."