Iran Says It Has Allocated $1 Billion In Credits For Iraq Reconstruction

Tuesday, May 1st 2007, 8:57 pm

By: News On 6

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Iran has extended $1 billion 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, the state-run news agency IRNA reported.

``We are prepared for implementation of economic projects in Iraq. For this purpose, we have allocated $1 billion 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 U.S. 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 U.S. ambassador to Iraq talked to the leaders of these groups several months back,'' he said, without providing details.

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

The U.S. has long accused Iran of providing weapons to insurgents in Iraq, a charge the country 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, but it does not rule out that such people might cross the long border illegally.

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