Iran rejects 'baseless' US charges on Iraq bombs
by Stuart Williams
TEHRAN (AFP) - Iran has angrily dismissed as "baseless" propaganda US charges that its agents had smuggled armour-piercing bombs to Shiite militias in Iraq, amid mounting tensions with its arch-enemy.
"The US accusations from the past months concerning Iran's implication in the troubles in Iraq are without foundation," said foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini.
"They have made these allegations with the aim of creating propaganda and these are unacceptable allegations," he told reporters Monday.
An anonymous group of senior US officials had shown journalists in Baghdad what they said was proof that Iranian agents have smuggled weapons to Iraq, including "explosively formed penetrators", a form of roadside bomb.
These bombs, they said, have killed 170 American and allied troops since May 2004. The defence officials refused to allow reporters to name them or record their briefing, but released pictures of alleged Iranian arms.
"The Americans' claim of unveiling documents about Iran's interference in Iraq is a grotesque show and a rusty weapon," said the influential head of parliament's foreign affairs and security committee, Alaeddin Borujerdi.
"The manner of presenting this claim, in a session with reporters, without filming and recording equipment, and with unnamed officials, is a trick unacceptable to other countries," he added according to the Mehr agency.
The allegations were the most specific of a string of accusations the United States has levelled over Iran's role in Iraq, largely focussed on its alleged material support for Shiite militias.
They also came amid mounting US exasperation at Iran's refusal to halt sensitive nuclear activities, which Washington believes are aimed at making a atomic bomb. Iran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful.
Although Washington has said it wants the nuclear standoff resolved through diplomacy, it has never ruled out military action to thwart Iran's atomic drive.
However the new accusations against Iran were not greeted with universal credence in Washington.
Several Democratic senators said they were unsure about the White House's real motives, particularly after a report that accused US officials of creating "inappropriate" intelligence linking Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda.
"I look at this with a degree of scepticism, based on the record that these intelligence operations have provided us in the past," said Christopher Dodd (news, bio, voting record), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Former Democratic presidential nominee Senator John Kerry said: "Every leader in the region and every observer, every expert here in our country, tells us that Iran does not want a complete and total implosion in Iraq."
The allegations would be met by "a sceptical Congress, and appropriately so, because of the last experience with Iraq."
Hosseini retorted for his part: "Even the US Congress has not been convinced by the claims of American officials. Even the CIA has said that it cannot accuse Iran of being implicated in the troubles in Iraq."
Iran also denied that any members of Al-Qaeda are in the Islamic republic, following a US press report that President George W. Bush was mulling publicly accusing Tehran of having links to the network
"At the moment, there are no Al-Qaeda members in Iran," Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie was quoted as saying by the government daily Iran.
Meanwhile, the US Newsweek magazine carried a report quoting a former security official as saying White House officials are trying to provoke Iran into an action the United States could use as an excuse for an attack.
"They intend to be as provocative as possible and make the Iranians do something (the United States) would be forced to retaliate for," said Hillary Mann, former director for Iran and Persian Gulf Affairs at the National Security Council, which reports to the White House.
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