Iran Urges Talks among Iraqis

A01104517.jpg TEHRAN (FNA)- Tehran’s provisional Friday Prayers leader Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati urged militants and government in Iraq to negotiate an end to their clashes that have cost dozens of lives in Iran’s war-torn neighbor.Militants including the Mahdi Army of firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki should “sit down” and “sort it out”, Ayatollah Jannati.

“I really ask the popular forces in Basra that if you, brothers, have something to say, come and sit down and tell the government,” Jannati said at Friday prayers in Tehran.

“There are some who are benevolent and can act as mediators.

“I ask the government of dear and esteemed Mr. Nuri al-Maliki who is running the government with power and wisdom to listen to these popular forces and see what they say and sort it out together.”

The comments made by Jannati, who also heads the Guardians Council – the Islamic republic’s top vetting body – were Iran’s first reaction to the fighting between the Iraqi army and militants that has claimed more than 120 lives in Basra and other Iraqi cities this week.

The US accuses Iran of being a strong backer of the Mahdi Army, a charge strongly denied by Tehran.

Iran says it is working hard for stability in its neighbor and that the best way for restoring security to Iraq is for the occupying troops to leave immediately.

The US is also at loggerheads with Iran over Tehran’s independent and home-grown nuclear technology. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

Washington’s push for additional UN penalties contradicted the recent report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head – one in November and the other one February – which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seemed to be completely irrational.

The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran’s cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran’s nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.

Tehran says it never worked on atomic weapons and wants to enrich uranium merely for civilian purposes, including generation of electricity, a claim substantiated by the NIE and IAEA reports.

Iran has insisted it would continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhoveyn as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.

Not only many Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but also many other world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports saying Iran had increased cooperation with the agency.

US President George W. Bush, who finished a tour of the Middle East last month has called on his Arab allies to unite against Iran.

But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush’s allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.

Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran has lost steam due to the growing international vigilance, specially following the latest IAEA and US intelligence reports.

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