Iran Gives $1 bln in Credit to Iraq

Iran has extended $1 bln in credits for reconstruction projects in Iraq, a senior official said Tuesday ahead of an international conference on stabilizing Iraq. Ali Larijani, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, said a committee of experts from both countries was discussing possible development projects, including some involving energy, AP reported.

“We are prepared for implementation of economic projects in Iraq. For this purpose, we have allocated $1 bln in credit,” IRNA quoted Larijani as saying.

His comments came two days before Iran joins the United States, European powers and Arab countries at a conference in Egypt to discuss a plan for stabilizing Iraq.

Iran’s decision to participate has raised the possibility of a rare direct encounter between high-level US and Iranian officials.

But Larijani, who spoke in the Iraqi holy Shiite city of Najaf, criticized the United States on Tuesday, accusing its former ambassador to Iraq of meeting with terrorists.

“We have information that the United States is holding talks with terrorists. The US ambassador to Iraq talked to the leaders of these groups several months back,” he said, without providing details.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the former US ambassador to Iraq, has acknowledged that US and Iraqi officials talked to representatives of insurgent groups hoping to draw more Sunni groups away from al-Qaeda. Current US Ambassador Ryan Crocker said last month that US authorities will not talk with “terrorists,” apparently distinguishing between al-Qaeda in Iraq and Sunni insurgents opposed to the political process.

The US has long accused Iran of providing weapons to insurgents in Iraq, a charge Tehran vehemently denies. Iran, a Shiite Muslim country with close ties to Iraq’s majority Shiite population, says it does not allow fighters to cross into Iraq.

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