Iran said it is willing to help Washington calm Iraq's escalating sectarian violence if the US drops its "bullying" policy toward Tehran, but denied organizing a summit with the leaders of Iraq and Syria to discuss the troubles in its neighboring country.
Hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran is "ready to help" the United States, saying the Americans are "trapped in a quagmire" in Iraq.
"The Iranian nation is ready to help you to get out of the quagmire - on condition that you resume behaving in a just manner and avoid bullying and invading," he said Sunday while addressing members of the Basij paramilitary group, which is affiliated with Iran's Revolutionary Guard.
The White House, which is under pressure at home and abroad to approach Iran and Syria for help with Iraq, played down Ahmadinejad's offer.
"The Iranians have made comments similar to this in the past. There's nothing new there," State Department spokeswoman Julie Reside said in Washington.
Engaging with Iraq's neighbors is believed to be one of the recommendations by a panel on Iraq led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Hosseini, meanwhile, denied reports of a summit involving Iraq and Syria, saying it was never on Iran's agenda.
"Such a summit needs certain preliminaries," he said, but did not give details.
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