IRAN REJECTS US ALLEGATIONS IT ARMED IRAQ INSURGENTS

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said his country wants to avoid conflict and called for the withdrawal of US and other foreign forces from Iraq is the only way to ensure peace there.

“We shy away from any kind of conflict, any kind of bloodshed,” Ahmadinejad told ABC television Monday.

The Iranian leader, whose country has been accused of stoking sectarian violence in Iraq, said instability there would hurt all countries in the region.

“That’s why we’re opposed to the presence of Americans,” he said. “We tell them to leave the country and any other foreigner should leave the country and there should be none in Iraq, and you see, we will have peace in Iraq.”

US OFFICIALS IN BAGHDAD CLAIM OTHERWISE…

The U.S. officials in Baghdad claimed the EFPs, as well as Iranian-made mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades, have been supplied to “rogue elements” of the Mahdi Army militia of anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is a key backer of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Skepticism in U.S.: Many key government figures and members of Iraq’s Shiite political leadership have deep ties to Iran, having spent decades there in exile during Saddam Hussein’s rule. But Iran has repeatedly denied that it has armed the Shiite militias in the neighboring country.Skeptical congressional Democrats said the Bush administration should move cautiously before accusing Iran of fomenting a campaign of violence against U.S. troops in Iraq. Senate Intelligence Committee member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said “the administration is engaged in a drumbeat with Iran that is much like the drumbeat that they did with Iraq. We’re going to insist on accountability.”

On the Republican side, Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi said he did not think the United States was trying to make a case for attacking Iran. Lott said the U.S. should try to stop the flow of munitions through Iran to Iraq but that “you do that by interdiction … you don’t do it by invasion.”

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