Saturday, August 14, 2004

Iran Hails Calming Comments From Iraq P.M.

Iran Hails Calming Comments From Iraq P.M.: "Iran Hails Calming Comments From Iraq P.M.
AFP: 8/14/2004
TEHRAN, Aug 14 (AFP) - Iran's official media Saturday hailed what it described as conciliatory remarks from Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi following a spate of angry accusations from other members of his US-backed government.

In an interview with the state IRNA news agency in Iraq's Shiite holy city of Najaf, Allawi welcomed an invitation to visit Iran and said he looked forward to constructive relations between the former foes.

"We want establishment of good relations with neighbouring countries, especially Iran, and believe that our bilateral ties are based on common interests," IRNA quoted him as saying.

Allawi distanced himself from US-led accusations, voiced by some in his administration, of Iranian interference in the new Iraq, notably by abetting infiltration of militants across the border.

"If there are any complaints, they are pointing to unofficial figures. We do not accuse the Iranian government of interference in Iraq's domestic affairs," the premier said.

"Some individuals penetrate Iraqi territory through neighbouring states, and that is true for Iran too."

Relations between Tehran and Baghdad were severely strained earlier this month when Defence Minister Hazem al-Shaalan accused the Iranian authorities of trying to "kill democracy" in his country by fomenting unrest.

Shaalan also charged that Tehran had abandoned its longstanding favouring of the mainstream Shiite religious parties in Iraq and was arming the rebel militiamen of radical leader Moqtada Sadr in their deadly clashes with US-led troops.

IRNA also reported reassuring comments from Iraq's charge d'affaires in Tehran, Khalil Salman Al-Sabihi, about three of the news agency's journalists detained in Iraq.

The Iraq embassy is "following the affair closely," IRNA quoted the envoy as saying.

"We have asked the Iraqi foreign ministry for information about the circumstances of, and reasons for, the arrests, as well as the latest news" of the three detainees.

IRNA's Baghdad bureau chief Mostafa Darban and journalists Mohammed Khafaji and Mohsen Madani were detained by Iraqi police on Monday night.

The news agency's foreign editor Hassan Lavasani told AFP Saturday that he still had no idea why his staff had been detained.

There has been no word either on the fate of an Iranian diplomat who went missing on the road from Baghdad to the Shiite holy city of Karbala on August 4 and whose kidnapping was later claimed by a Sunni militant group.

Relations between Tehran and Baghdad have also been inflamed over the past week by a US-backed offensive on militia strongholds in Najaf, which is revered by the Shiite majority in Iran as well as Iraq.

Iranian officials have warned of a furious reaction from Muslims around the world."

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