Iran rejects US-Iraq security agreement

IRAN’s supreme leader told the visiting Iraqi prime minister yesterday that the US military presence is the main cause of Iraq’s problems, according to Iranian state television, making clear his opposition to a US-Iraqi security pact.

Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s talks with Iranian leaders during his three-day visit to Tehran have focused on the proposed security agreement that Iran fears will keep the American military in neighbouring Iraq for years.

Al-Maliki has tried to push Iranian leaders to back off their fierce opposition to the proposed pact, promising Iraq will not be a launching pad for any attack on Iran.

However, the agreement has become a point of contention as Baghdad tries to balance its close ties to rivals Washington and Tehran.

Iran, which has repeatedly said the way to end instability in Iraq is for US forces to withdraw, believes the proposed pact could lead to permanent US bases on its doorstep amid fears of an eventual American attack.

“Occupiers who interfere in Iraq’s affairs through their military and security might are the main problems,” Iran’s state television quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying yesterday.

He said Iraqis have to “think of a solution to free” themselves from the US military. Though he did not explicitly mention the security agreement, he said Iraqis — not Americans — must decide the fate of their country.

Meanwhile, US soldiers under heavy fire during a raid yesterday in north-western Iraq called in airstrikes and killed five suspected al-Qaida in Iraq militants, the military said.

In addition, a parked car packed with munitions exploded near a passing Iraqi army patrol in eastern Baghdad, killing three civilians and an army lieutenant, police said.

The explosion wounded at least 12 others, and damaged several cars and shops in a busy commercial district of Karrada, an officer said.

The US military said it detained 13 suspects and destroyed a “foreign terrorist hideout” in two days of operations targeting al-Qaida in Iraq across the country.


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