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Iran gives arms, training to Iraqi militias: US envoy

Zalmay Khalilzad also criticised Tehran's demand that British forces immediately withdraw from the southern city of Basra.

india Updated: Feb 21, 2006 08:53 IST

The US ambassador accused Iran on Tuesday of providing training and weapons to Iraqi militias and extremist groups.

Zalmay Khalilzad alsocriticised Tehran's demand that British forces immediately withdraw from the southern city of Basra.

The US envoysaid at a press conference that Washington did not "want Iranian interference in Iraq, providing arms and training the militias and forces that are hostile to this new Iraq."

He said that while Iraq and Iran maintained good relations, "Iran has another policy as well, which is to work with the militias and extremist groups and provide training and weapons, direct or indirect."

He also said there was evidence of "at least indirect help" by Iran to unidentified Shi'ite politicians.

"Iran is a very complicated player, an influential player seeking regional pre-eminence," said Khalilzad. "Iraq is very important to it and it is using a variety of means that, to you and I, would look very contradictory but to them it looks as part of a comprehensive strategy."

On Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manushehr Mottaki called for British troops to withdraw from Basra, accusing them of destabilising Iraq's second largest city.

"Basra is Iraqi territory when I last checked the map," Khalilzad said. "I think that was uncalled for interference by Iran."

First Published: Feb 21, 2006 08:53 IST