SOUTHERN SHUNEH, Jordan (AP) - Two US Republican senators said Sunday that the United States has evidence Iran sent weapons and trainers to instruct insurgents in Iraq to carry out terror attacks there.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, told a World Economic Forum panel discussion on Iraq's future that during a trip last week to Iraq, he had seen "evidence that Iran was supplying weapons and bomb-making components to Iraqi terrorists." A former Iranian government official, who was on the same panel as Hatch, denied the claims, saying his country had been falling prey to a "barrage of accusations" from the US since the Islamic revolution in 1979.
"Iraq is already so full of arms that it doesn't need arms from Iran," said hard-liner Mohammed J.A. Larijani, a former deputy foreign minister and brother to Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani.
But Sen. Gordon Smith, a Republican from Oregon, told the same panel he had seen "confiscated Iranian weapons" and captured Iranians who had confessed to a mission to train Iraqi extremists in military tactics.
The two senators did not elaborate. But the US military announced two days ago that it had arrested six suspected insurgents in northeast Iraq for membership in a cell that imports weapons from neighboring Iran and sends Iraqis to Iran for training.
Washington says Iran sends members of its elite Republican Guard units into Iraq to carry out deadly attacks and train armed groups allied with the Shi'ite-dominated government. Iran denies the allegations.
Larijani said the two senators' allegations were part of US President George W. Bush's propaganda campaign against Iran, which included labeling the country part of the "axis of evil."
"Is this a sign of respect?" he questioned, addressing the US senators, who demanded that Iran cooperate with the US to help stabilize Iraq.
Hatch said Washington "respects" the Iranian people, and that the US needed to do a better job in "dealing with our friends in Iran."
"But there are clear indications, and there's no doubt that Iran is sending weapons to kill not only Americans in Iraq, but also Iraqis," said Hatch, who later warmly shook hands with Larijani.