Iran Rejects U.S. Accusations
Monday, February 12th 2007, 6:12 am
News On 6
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Iran on Monday rejected U.S. accusations that the highest levels of Iranian leadership have armed Shiite militants in Iraq with armor-piercing roadside bombs, a day after U.S. military officials in Baghdad said they had traced the weapons to Tehran.
``Such accusations cannot be relied upon or be presented as evidence. The United States has a long history in fabricating evidence. Such charges are unacceptable,'' Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters.
The deadly and highly sophisticated weapons are known as ``explosively formed penetrators,'' or EFPs, which have killed more than 170 troops from the American-led coalition. Three senior military officials in Baghdad said the ``machining process'' used in the construction of the deadly bombs had been traced to Iran.
But Hosseini said Iran's top leaders were not intervening in Iraq and considered ``any intervention in Iraq's internal affairs as a weakening of the popular Iraqi government, and we are opposed to that.''
The U.S. military presentation in Baghdad on Sunday was the result of weeks of preparation and revisions as U.S. officials put together a package of material to support the Bush administration's claims of Iranian intercession on behalf of militant Iraqis fighting American forces.
The experts, who spoke to a large gathering of reporters on condition that they not be further identified, said the supply trail began with Iran's Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, which also is accused of arming the Hezbollah guerrilla army in Lebanon. The officials said the EFP weapon was first tested there.
The U.S. officials in Baghdad claimed the EFPs, as well as Iranian-made mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades, have been supplied to ``rogue elements'' of the Mahdi Army militia of anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is a key backer of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Many key government figures and members of Iraq's Shiite political leadership have deep ties to Iran, having spent decades there in exile during Saddam Hussein's rule. But Iran has repeatedly denied that it has armed the Shiite militias in the neighboring country.
Skeptical congressional Democrats said the Bush administration should move cautiously before accusing Iran of fomenting a campaign of violence against U.S. troops in Iraq.
Senate Intelligence Committee member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said ``the administration is engaged in a drumbeat with Iran that is much like the drumbeat that they did with Iraq. We're going to insist on accountability.''
On the Republican side, Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi said he did not think the United States was trying to make a case for attacking Iran. Lott said the U.S. should try to stop the flow of munitions through Iran to Iraq but that ``you do that by interdiction ... you don't do it by invasion.''