Monday, June 9, 2008
"09/06/2008 Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei on Monday warned Iraq's visiting prime minister against signing an agreement with the United States keeping foreign troops in the country beyond 2008. The continued presence of US troops was Iraq's "fundamental problem," Khamenei told Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, expressing confidence that Iran's western neighbor would dash the "dreams" of the United States.
The meeting -- on the final day of Maliki's third visit to Tehran as prime minister -- came amid alarm in Iran over the mooted Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) pact between Baghdad and Washington. "The most fundamental problem of Iraq is the presence of the foreign forces," Khamenei told Maliki in comments reported by state television. "We are certain that the Iraqi people will pass the difficult circumstances and reach the status they deserve. For sure, the American dreams will not materialize."
"The fact that a foreign element wants to interfere in the affairs of Iraq and dominate the country progressively is the main problem for the development and wellbeing of the Iraqis," Khamenei said.
Maliki had on Sunday sought to reassure Iran over the planned security pact, vowing Iraq would never be used as a platform to attack the Islamic republic. "We will not allow Iraq to become a platform for harming the security of Iran and neighbors," he said after meeting Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.
Maliki also met President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who pledged to help with Iraq's security. The Iranian - Iraqi talks stressed on the expansion of bilateral ties and Iraq's security.
In his meeting with al-Maliki, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad called on Iraqi factions to forge unity and end the security crisis in the country. Ahmadinejad noted that Iraq is passing through a sensitive time, saying "all countries should help the Iraqi government to help establish stability and security in Iraq". "Iraq must reach a certain level of stability so that its enemies are not able to impose their influence", Ahmadinejad said.
The yet-not-concluded deal pact would also give the occupation troops a free rein to carry out military operations whenever and wherever they deem necessary without consultation with the Iraqi government.
Al-Maliki assured the Iranian officials that the security pact, which Washington hopes to finish by mid-summer, would not pose any threat to Iran. "We will not allow Iraq to become a launch pad for harming the security of Iran and other neighbors," Maliki said in the meeting. He said that Iraq's development and stability would be provided through more bilateral cooperation with Iran.
During al-Maliki's visit, the two countries' defense ministers -- Iraq's Abdul Qader Mohamed al-Jasem al-Abidi and Iran's Mostafa Mohammad Najer -- also held a meeting and decided to strengthen military cooperation in the future."