Iran and Turkey Slam US-led Coalition Over In

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Posted by Sadie from ? ( on Monday, August 25, 2003 at 2:21PM :

Protestors in Istanbul demonstrate against recent violence in northern Iraq . Violence in the northern oil-rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk in recent days occurred between pro-Turkey Turkmen and Kurds and resulted in various deaths. (AFP/Mustafa Ozer)

August 25, 2003
Agence France Presse, via
Iran and Turkey Slam US-led Coalition Over Instability

Iraq's neighbors, Turkey and Iran, told the US-led coalition that ousted Saddam Hussein and now occupies the volatile nation that it must do a lot more to restore law and order there.

The warnings came as the remains of top UN envoy to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, killed last week in a suicide bomb attack in Baghdad, arrived in Geneva ahead of his burial in the Swiss city.

And a delegation of Iraq's interim Governing Council arrived in Jordan on the latest leg of a so-far failed tour to try to persuade reluctant Arab states to formally recognize the body appointed by the occupying forces.

Iran's warning to the US-led coalition came in response to an assassination bid on Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Seyed Mohammed Said al-Hakim, one of the country's four leading Muslim Shiite clerics, that left three dead.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, condemned Sunday's bomb attack in the holy city of Najaf and said it was part of a plot against Islam and Shiites, who form the majority in both Iraq and Iran.

"Such criminal acts risk giving a pretext to the occupying forces to impose their suppressive policies on the defenseless people of Iraq and will lead to insecurity in the war-torn country at a time when the Iraqi people are in dire need of unity and solidarity," IRNA news agency quoted him as saying.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi added that "the Islamic Republic of Iran is worried about the intensification of instability and insecurity in Iraq and holds the occupying forces responsible for the incident."

The US-led coalition has repeatedly accused Iran of interfering in Iraqi affairs by exerting religious influence on the Shiite community in Iraq.

Thousands gathered in Najaf on Monday at the mausoleum of the Prophet Mohammed's son-in-law Ali for the funerals of those killed in the bomb attack.

"We declare that the coalition forces are entirely responsible for what has happened because they are using tanks to try to bring peace," said Ammar Abdulaziz al-Hakim, the son of a senior Shiite figure on Iraq's Governing Council, in a funeral oration.

Turkey, a NATO member which refused to let US troops deploy from its territory during the Iraq war but which regards Washington as its key ally, was more guarded in its criticism of the coalition.

"We have reminded them (US officials) that they need to do their best to establish peace there," Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told reporters in Ankara after meeting representatives of Iraq's Turkmen community.

His comments came in the wake of deadly clashes in recent days between the Kurdish and Turkmen communities in northern Iraq.

"It is not possible for us to accept the recent treatment of the Turkmens," Gul said.

Turkey shares a common ethnic and linguistic background with the Turkmen and has vowed to protect their interests in northern Iraq, dominated by Kurds whom Ankara suspects of moving towards independence.

The recent clashes come at a time when Turkey is weighing whether to send up to a reported 10,000 troops to join an international security force in its war-torn neighbor.

One of the many recent victims of the unrest in Iraq, Vieira de Mello, arrived near his final resting place Monday when his remains were flown into Geneva after a memorial service in his hometown of Rio de Janeiro.

The widely respected diplomat, who was also the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, was among 23 people killed in a suicide truck bombing at UN headquarters in Baghdad last Tuesday.

An Islamist Internet site on Monday issued a statement, which could not be authenticated, by a group close to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network which claimed to have carried out the attack on the UN building in Baghdad.

On the diplomatic front, a delegation from Iraq's transitional Governing Council arrived in Jordan from Egypt.

But Jordan quickly made it clear that the visit was not about providing the US-appointed body with formal recognition.

"At the time being we are not speaking of recognition," said Foreign Minister Marwan Moasher following a meeting in Amman between Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb and the visiting delegation.

"We want the council to succeed and we hope it will lead to an Iraqi government which represents the Iraqi people," Moasher added.

The delegation got much the same response in Cairo. Jordan is the seventh leg of an Arab tour that has already taken it to the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The 25-strong council, which aims to pave the way for Iraqi elections not expected to take place for at least a year, is merely "welcomed" but not endorsed by the United Nations, and the Arab League has refused to recognize it.

In a sign of further unrest in Iraq, three US soldiers were wounded early Monday when rocket propelled grenades were fired at their convoy near Habbaniya, near the flashpoint town of Fallujah, 50 kilometers (36 miles) west of Baghdad, a witness said.

Copyright 2003 AFP

-- Sadie
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