Iran, Syria accused of stoking Iraq violence

Iraq's interim defence minister has accused Iran and Syria of aiding Jordanian fugitive Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Saddam loyalists to create instability in Iraq.

    Shaalan (L) and Allawi have repeatedly criticised Iran

    Hazim al-Shaalan poured scorn on Iran in a speech to US,

    British, Iraqi and other military officers on Wednesday

    .

    "Iran runs a major terrorist ring inside Iraq," Shaalan

    said

    , repeating accusations frequently made by himself and his

    ally interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi

    .

    "I have already said that this state [Iran] is the prime

    enemy of Iraq, an enemy of Iraq since before Islam, because it

    helped the enemies of the Arabs and humanity."

    "Syrian, Iranian and former Iraqi intelligence are

    cooperating with the Zarqawi group," Shaalan said, referring to

    the Jordanian's group which has claimed some

    of the bloodiest bombings and kidnappings since the war.

    "We want democracy and they want the dictatorship of Islam

    and clerical rule," he said at the opening of two days of talks

    on the role of Iraq's new National Guard security force.

    However, Iran and Syria deny any links with Iraq's anti-US fighters.

    Iran condemned the US-led invasion of Iraq last year, and Iranian officials have accused Iraqi officials of being mouthpieces for their "US masters".

    Tehran says Iraqis alone should determine the fate of their country and "occupation forces" should leave the nation.

    "It seems he has a mission to say such things,"

    Iran's Interior Minister Abd al-Wahid Mousavi-Lari said in response to Shaalan's comments.

    "I have always thought his remarks were because he was

    young, inexperienced and immature. But now I believe he has been

    ordered by his masters to say such things," he said.

    'Iranian list'

    Al-Shaalan also claimed Hussain a

    l-Shahristani, a former nuclear scientist jailed for opposing Saddam, had alleged links to Iran. 

    Al-Shahristani was Saddam's
    chief nuclear scientist in the 70s

    Al-Shahristani is a leading figure in the United Iraqi Alliance electoral bloc,

    which has the backing of Iraq's top Shia cleric Ayat Allah Ali

    al-Sistani.

    The defence minister described the alliance as "the Iranian

    list" and made veiled accusations about al-Shahristani's

    relationship with Iran.

    "Shahristan is a city in Iran," he said. "He went to Iran.

    Today he returns to become Iraq's prime minister."

    Leading Iraqi Shia politicians, however, told Aljazeera.net in April that what ties they maintain with Iran do not preclude them from acting independently.

    Meanwhile, al-Shaalan also said that

    Ali Hassan al-Majid will

    be the first of Saddam Hussein's

    top deputies to face trial

    .

    He said the initial hearings could begin next

    week and would definitely take place by mid-January - days

    before Iraq holds its first post-Saddam election, for which

    campaigning began on Wednesday.

    'Investigative hearings'

    While al-Shaalan described the process as a trial, a statement

    from the Special Tribunal appointed to judge Saddam and his

    lieutenants later said they would be "investigative hearings",

    the first phase of the trial process.

    Al-Majid is accused of some of the worst crimes allegedly committed

    during Saddam's decades in power, including the

    gassing of as many as 5000 Kurds in Halabja

    in the late 1980s.

    Al-Majid was a leading member
    of the former Iraqi government

    Al-Majid

    is not believed to have seen a lawyer since

    he was seized by US forces in August last year. He is expected to deny the charges.

    Some officials, including a senior member of the interim

    government, have suggested that the announcement of the

    trials was timed to create publicity ahead of the election, due

    on 30 January.

    Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi announced his candidacy for the polls on Wednesday,

    with his name at the top of a 200-member list of candidates.

    "It's a piece of showmanship, to try to show that something

    has been achieved before the election," said the senior

    government official, who asked not to be identified.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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