Gen. Petraeus 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
The top US military commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, lashed out at Iran over continuing violence in Iraq, charging on Sunday that Teheran's ambassador to Baghdad was once a member of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards force.
Without citing any specific intelligence, Petraeus claimed that Hassan Kazemi-Qomi was a member of the Quds Force, which the US believes backs foreign Islamic revolutionary movements.
Kazemi-Qomi has reportedly met twice with his American counterpart, Ryan Crocker, this year to discuss stability in Iraq.
"Now he has diplomatic immunity and therefore he is obviously not subject [to scrutiny]. He is acting as a diplomat," Petraeus said. "There should be no question about the malign, lethal involvement and activities of the Quds Force in this country."
Speaking at a briefing for journalists at a US military base near Iraq's border with Iran, Petraeus also said he had no doubt Iran was behind attacks that had led to the deaths of US soldiers.
Petraeus accused Iran of aiding Iraqi rebels with training and gifts of high-powered weaponry.
"They are responsible for providing the weapons, the training, the funding and in some cases the direction for operations that have indeed killed US soldiers," he said.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry dismissed the "baseless" accusations, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.
"They repeatedly link those arrested or killed in the bombardments with the Quds force," Foreign Ministry spokesman Muhammad-Ali Hosseini told IRNA. "If they can, they announce names of those people or hand over the names to the Islamic Republic of Iran."
Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Sunday he was not asking for talks with the United States, but they would be possible if Washington changed its policy toward Teheran, Iran's official Web site reported.
Referring to last week's comment by US President George W. Bush regarding Washington's willingness to negotiate with Iran if it suspended its nuclear program, Ahmadinejad responded: "We firstly say that we never asked for negotiations with the United States. Negotiations with the US will happen when the US government applies basic changes in its behavior and attitude."
"Setting conditions is our right since we have been worrying about your atomic bombs as well as the warmongers standing beside them," Ahmadinejad was quoted by the Web site as saying.
He reiterated that Iran was ready to negotiate with any individual and country except its arch foe, Israel.
Regarding Iran's disputed nuclear activities, Ahmadinejad said his country was ready for negotiation over mutual cooperation, "but we do consider it meaningless to talk over nuclear rights of the Iranian nation."
Iran's comments come less than a week after Bush told a group of businessmen and women in Pennsylvania that he would negotiate with Iran if it suspended its nuclear program - something Iran has repeatedly refused to do. Bush also made similar comments in an interview aired Friday on Al-Arabiya TV.
Earlier Sunday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Muhammad Ali Hosseini told reporters, "Iran is ready for talks in a just, unconditional manner with mutual respect." He said Bush's remarks were not new, but they were "clearer than previous times."
The Bush administration and others in the West have repeatedly voiced concern over Iran's uranium enrichment program, arguing it is aimed at producing nuclear weapons. Iran rejects the claims, defying UN sanctions while stressing its program is peaceful and agreeing to answer questions from the UN nuclear agency.â€¢
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