Iran calls for US to pull out of Iraq

Fredrik Dahl

TEHRAN — An end to violence in Iraq depends on the US withdrawing its troops, Iran told Iraq’s prime minister yesterday, seeking to deflect blame for bloodshed that the US directs at Tehran.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, facing political woes at home and US criticism for lack of progress in bridging sectarian division, won support from Shiite Iran in a visit to Tehran.

With Shiite Muslims now in power also in Baghdad, ties between the two oil-rich countries have improved since US-led forces in 2003 toppled Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Arab who waged an eight-year war against Iran in the 1980s.

But the US military accuses Iran of arming and training militias behind some of the violence threatening to tear Iraq apart. Iran rejects the charge, and blames the bloodshed on the presence of about 162000 troops.

Baghdad has urged both countries to negotiate and not fight out their differences on Iraqi soil. “We regard Iraq’s security as our own security and that of the region,” Iranian First Vice-President Parviz Davoudi told Maliki, the Irna news agency reported.

“Establishment of stability and calm in Iraq depends on ... the withdrawal of the occupying forces and an end to their interference in Iraq and also on the authority of the government of Mr Maliki,” Davoudi said.

Maliki, who also met Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other leaders, faces mounting pressure to secure a power-sharing deal among Iraq’s warring sects before a US report next month on strategy in Iraq.

Also yesterday, tens of thousands of Shiite pilgrims converged on a shrine in northern Baghdad, some beating their heads and chests with their hands and others dancing in a circle to honour an eighth century saint known for hiding his anger.