Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Daily Star - Politics - Lebanese FM slams Iraqi minister's Iran remarks

The Daily Star - Politics - Lebanese FM slams Iraqi minister's Iran remarks: "Lebanese FM slams Iraqi minister's Iran remarks

By Agence France Presse (AFP)

Thursday, July 29, 2004

BEIRUT: Lebanese Foreign Minister Jean Obeid criticized Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem al-Shaalan on Wednesday for remarks in which he accused Iran of seeking to "kill democracy" in Iraq.

"Any declaration about Iraq's relations with neighboring states including Iran, which gives rise to divisions, will not help achieve full sovereignty, a withdrawal of foreign troops or the restoration of security, unity and democracy in Iraq," Obeid told reporters.

"Efforts to achieve security and sovereignty in Iraq must be wisely conducted and must enjoy the support of Syria, Iran and Turkey," he said.

Obeid added that Iraqi caretaker Prime Minister Iyad Allawi had made "no unfriendly sign toward Iran, nor obviously toward Turkey or Syria" during a visit to Lebanon this week.

Shaalan had told the Washington Post on Monday that he had seen "clear interference in Iraqi issues by Iran," which he claimed "interferes in order to kill democracy."

In his statements to the Post, Shaalan had accused Iran of taking over some Iraqi border posts and sending spies and saboteurs into Iraq.

He said former fighters in Afghanistan had been helped by Iran to get into Iraq and that Iran was supporting "terrorism and bringing enemies into Iraq."

Iran has consistently denied charges it has supported anti-US insurgents in Iraq, against which it fought a 1980-1988 war that killed an estimated 1 million people.

Tehran rejected Shaalan's allegations on Tuesday, describing his statements as "contrary to the official message we get from Baghdad."

"We do not consider this to be Iraq's official position," government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh told AFP.

Despite lingering suspicions on both sides of the Iran-Iraq frontier, the interim government in Baghdad has talked of the possibility of establishing diplomatic ties with its neighbor."


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