U.S. military accuses Iran of smuggling arms into Iraq
The U.S. military again accused Iran on Sunday of smuggling surface-to-air missiles and other advanced weapons into Iraq for use against American troops...
The Associated Press
BAGHDAD — The U.S. military again accused Iran on Sunday of smuggling surface-to-air missiles and other advanced weapons into Iraq for use against American troops.
The new allegations came as Iraqi leaders condemned the latest U.S. detention of an Iranian in northern Iraq, saying the man was in their country on official business.
Military spokesman Rear Adm. Mark Fox said U.S. troops were continuing to find Iranian-supplied weaponry including the Misagh 1, a portable surface-to-air missile that uses an infrared guidance system.
Other advanced Iranian weaponry found in Iraq includes the RPG-29 rocket-propelled grenade, 240-mm rockets and armor-piercing roadside bombs known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, Fox said.
An American soldier was killed Saturday and another wounded when an EFP hit their patrol in eastern Baghdad, the military said.
Iran has denied U.S. allegations that it is smuggling weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq, a denial that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reiterated in an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" that aired Sunday as he arrived on a two-day visit to New York City.
On Thursday, U.S. troops arrested an Iranian in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah. U.S. officials said he was a member of the elite Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards that smuggles weapons into Iraq.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki condemned the Iranian's arrest, saying he understood the man, who has been identified as Mahmudi Farhadi, had been invited to Iraq.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, also demanded the Iranian's release.
The U.S. military said the suspect was being questioned about "his knowledge of, and involvement in," the transportation of roadside bombs from Iran into Iraq and "his facilitation of travel and training in Iran for Iraqi insurgents." The military said no decision had been made about whether to file charges.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Farhadi was in charge of border transactions in western Iran and went to Iraq on an official invitation.
In Baghdad, an Iraqi official conceded Sunday that expelling a U.S. company accused in the deaths of at least 11 Iraqis would leave a "security vacuum" and said the two countries would look at ways to better regulate companies that protect Western personnel and facilities in Iraq.
A joint U.S.-Iraqi commission is expected to hold its first meeting within days, the U.S. Embassy said.
Al-Maliki last Wednesday demanded that the embassy find a replacement for Blackwater USA and that the company's activities in Iraq be frozen after Blackwater guards protecting a U.S. convoy were involved in a Sept. 16 shooting in Baghdad. U.S. officials asked him to wait for the results of a joint investigation.
A spokesman for Iraqi security efforts in Baghdad acknowledged Sunday that Blackwater was one of the main companies protecting foreign embassies and said it was not feasible to expel the company, which employs 1,000 people in Iraq.
Blackwater guards were back on the streets on a limited basis after the embassy on Friday eased a temporary ban on road travel by its personnel outside the fortified Green Zone.
Also Sunday, Iraq's minister of state for national security, Sherwan al-Waili, took over the security operations center in Basra as tensions rose in the southern city after the assassination of a local representative of Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
The region has been rocked by violence between rival Shiite militias linked to political parties, raising concerns about security as the British military has pulled back its troops from the city center to a nearby airport to allow Iraqi security forces to take over.
Iraqi authorities, meanwhile, said a shipment of chlorine had crossed the border from Jordan after concerns were raised about shortages of the chemical needed to prevent an outbreak of cholera from spreading.
Officials said earlier that as much as 100,000 tons of chlorine was being held up at the border for fear it would be hijacked and used in explosives. Several chlorine truck bombs blamed on suspected Sunni insurgents earlier this year killed scores of people.
Iraq now has a total of 1,652 confirmed cases of cholera after three new cases were confirmed in Salahuddin province, according to an update on the World Health Organization's Web site on Sunday. Earlier, cholera was confirmed in the provinces of Sulaimaniyah, Tamim and Irbil, as well as a case each in Baghdad and Basra.
Information from the Los Angeles Times is included in this report.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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