US seeks Iranian help in Iraq

The United States has made a formal request to its arch foe Iran to help ease mounting violence in Iraq.

    Iran's FM Kharazi says US request for help in Iraq 'natural'

    Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said on Wednesday that there has been a "lot of correspondence" with Washington regarding Iraq.

    "Naturally, there was a request for our help in improving the situation in Iraq and solving the crisis, and we are making efforts in this regard," the minister said after a cabinet meeting.
    He added that exchanges of written communications between Washington and Tehran continued to be made through the Swiss embassy in Iran, asserting that there was no direct contact between the two countries.

    Iran and the US cut off diplomatic ties after the 1979 Islamic revolution, which saw the US embassy in Tehran taken over by students and its staff held hostage for 444 days.

    In 2001, US President George Bush branded Iran as part of an "axis of evil".

    "We have had negotiations in the past but they were stopped. We are of the sentiment that these negotiations are pointless, because the Americans make promises but do not keep them," said Kharazi.

    Neighbours meddling?

    He also said that a regular forum of Iraq's neighbours -Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey along with Egypt -remained the best mechanism for advising the US on its presence in Iraq, which Kharazi said was heading in the "wrong direction."

    US marines carrying out search
    operations in Iraq

    Kharazi's comments came after the official news agency IRNA said a top foreign ministry official had been sent to Iraq on Wednesday for talks with occupation authorities, Iraqi politicians and religious leaders. 

    The foreign ministry's director for Gulf affairs, Husayn Sadeghi, left for the Iraqi capital to "examine events there and to look into finding the means to solve the crisis," IRNA said.

    Iran's supreme spiritual leader Ayat Allah Ali Khamenei on
    Wednesday made a bitter denounciation of the US-led occupation.

    "The United States accuses other countries of intervening in
    Iraq and provoking the Iraqis, but it is perfectly clear that the
    crimes committed by the occupying forces and their insulting
    behaviour towards Iraqi youth and women are the cause of the Iraqi reaction, whether Sunni or Shia," Khamenei said in a speech broadcast on state television.
    He said US actions in Iraq were "contrary to all humanitarian
    principles and are destined to fail.
    "Sooner or later, the Americans will be obliged to leave Iraq in
    shame and humiliation."

    On Monday, the head of US Central Command, General John Abizaid, accused Iran, along with Syria, of involvement in what he said were "unhelpful actions" in Iraq. He refused to elaborate what these actions were.

    Bloody past

    Iran and Iraq fought a bloody war between 1980 and 1988 that left over a million dead.

    Tehran is seen as close to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a Shia religious party headed by Abd Aziz al-Hakim who sits on the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council.

    Abizaid also said that "elements" in Iran were trying to limit the influence of Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, whose militia has launched an uprising against the occupation this month. Al-Sadr’s militia is the first Shia faction in Iraq to take up arms against the occupation.

    "With regard to the Iranians there are elements within Iran that are urging patience and calm and trying to limit the influence of al-Sadr," he said.

    "So it's a complicated situation but what we need is all of the nations around Iraq to participate in calming the situation and assisting with a sovereign and stable government emerging."



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