Iraq: No evidence of Iran support for militia

May 5, 2008

BAGHDAD (AFP) -- Iraq said on Sunday it has no evidence that Iran was supplying militias engaged in fierce street fighting with security forces in Baghdad.

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said there was no “hard evidence” of involvement by the neighboring government of Iran in backing Shiite militiamen in the embattled country.
Dabbagh said: “We don’t have that kind of evidence... If there is hard evidence we will defend the country.”
Tehran strongly opposes the U.S. military presence in Iraq, while Washington has repeatedly accused Iranian groups of arming and training Shiite militia groups in its neighbor.
Iran, whose ties with Washington have been severed since 1980, strongly denies the allegations.
U.S. military spokesman Rear Admiral Patrick Driscoll told reporters in the presence of Dabbagh that the Americans fully supported talks between Iran and Iraq on curbing the sectarian violence.
“We welcome all dialogue between Iran and Iraq,” Driscoll said, adding that they supported any platform that could lead to an end to violence and ensure stability in Iraq where the U.S. has deployed over 158,000 troops.
Dabbagh said an Iraqi parliamentary delegation which visited Iran last week had held useful discussions and secured assurances of support.
“They talked frankly about the fears and concerns in Iraq,” he told reporters at a news conference in the tightly-guarded Green Zone of Baghdad where the Iraqi government and the U.S. embassy are located.
He stressed that Iraq wanted closer relations with Iran. “What happened in the past is in the past,” he said referring to the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
Dabbagh said that Baghdad was keen to “reorganize” its relations with Tehran.
“Iran supports the government and understands the need to eliminate all militia... and allow the rule of law,” Dabbagh said, adding that the Iraqi team which went to Iran had the blessing of the government but was not “official.”
Reports from Tehran on Sunday said Iran had warned Iraq against using excessive force in its crackdown against Shiite militias.
“We support the efforts of the Iraqi government to disarm the armed militia but we advise them not to confront the population,” an official source, who was not named, told the student ISNA news agency in Tehran.
“The official position of the Islamic republic of Iran is to support the legal Iraqi government and we will do everything to ensure the security of the country,” added the source.