Iran speaker urges Iraq to resist U.S. pact: report

Iran Materials 18 November 2008 17:09 (UTC +04:00)

Iran's parliament speaker urged Iraqi lawmakers to keep resisting a security pact with the United States, official media said Tuesday, a day after Baghdad signed an accord on U.S. troop presence in Iraq.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari and U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker signed Monday the long-awaited deal requiring Washington to withdraw its forces by the end of 2011, eight years after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, reported Reuters.

It must still be passed by the Iraqi parliament.

Speaker Ali Larijani, an influential conservative politician in the Islamic Republic, said Washington's main aim was "strengthening comprehensive U.S. hegemony in Iraq."

His comments were the most outspoken by an Iranian official since the accord was finalized.

Iran has repeatedly blamed the United States for the violence in Iraq and wants its old foe to quit the neighboring country as soon as possible. Washington says Tehran is fomenting instability in Iraq by training and arming militants there.

"The Iraqi nation and parliament should realize that the time for resistance is not over yet," Larijani was quoted as saying by the IRNA news agency.

The pact commits Washington to withdraw its force of about 150,000 troops by December 31, 2011. Iraqi negotiators consider the firm date a victory after the administration of outgoing President George W. Bush long vowed not to accept a timetable.

Larijani said the United States had wanted to turn Iraq into "another U.S. state, but the Iraqi sources of (Islamic) jurisprudence, government, and nation resisted for eight months and changed the articles of the pact seven times."

Speaking at a ceremony in the central province of Qom, he said that under the original text U.S. forces could establish military bases in Iraq, from which he said they could launch attacks against other countries.

"Those articles are changed today, and all the same, the Iraqi Parliament should still resist," Larijani said.

Another senior official, judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi, appeared more positive about the outcome.

"The government of Iraq has done very well. We hope the result will be both to the benefit of Islam and the sovereignty of the country of Iraq," daily Kargozaran quoted him as saying.

The United States is accusing Iran of seeking to build a nuclear bomb and has not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to resolve the row. Iran says its aims are peaceful.

The security pact gives Iraq's government authority over the U.S. mission for the first time, replacing a U.N. Security Council mandate that has governed the U.S. presence since 2003.