AFP: Iraq's Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan accused Iran Wednesday of orchestrating terrorist attacks in Iraq, saying its neighbor was the "most dangerous enemy of Iraq".

"Iran is the most dangerous enemy of Iraq and all Arabs,"
Shaalan said. "The source of terrorism in Iraq is Iran."
AFP

BAGHDAD - Iraq's Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan accused Iran Wednesday of orchestrating terrorist attacks in Iraq, saying its neighbor was the "most dangerous enemy of Iraq".

"Iran is the most dangerous enemy of Iraq and all Arabs," Shaalan said. "The source of terrorism in Iraq is Iran."

The two countries fought a brutal eight-year war from 1980 under then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, and lingering tensions remain, with many Iraqis still convinced that Iran is trying to undermine their country.

Hostilities between Iraq and Iran go back centuries.

"Terrorism is Iraq is orchestrated by Iranian intelligence, Syrian intelligence and Saddam loyalists, in collaboration with Zarqawi," he said, referring to Iraq's most wanted man, Jordanian Islamist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

"The financing and training of the terrorists comes from Syria and Iran," Shaalan added.

Iraq and the United States have frequently accused Iran of interfering in Iraq, where a majority of the population share the Islamic republic's Shiite Muslim faith.

He also addressed senior officers of the Iraqi National Guard saying: "Your courage will contain the black invasion" -- a reference to the black-clad Iranian Shiite clerics.

And Shaalan lashed out at the electoral list submitted by Shiite factions for the landmark January 30 polls.

"It is an Iranian list," he said, accusing one of the candidates, Hussein al-Shahrastani, of being an Iranian "agent".

"This expert worked for two years on the Iranian nuclear programme after having been freed in 1991. He now has the pretension of becoming the head of the Iraqi government but we will not allow that," Shaalan said.

Shahrastani, who holds a doctorate in nuclear chemistry from the University of Toronto, was a key official at the Iraqi atomic energy commission until 1979 when Saddam became president.

After Saddam took power, Shahrastani refused to be part of Iraq's nuclear programme and was jailed for 10 years in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison until 1991.

He left for Iran with his wife and three children before moving to Britain to become a university lecturer.

The 228-strong United Iraqi alliance submitted by Shiite groups, the Dawa party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Iraqi National Congress of erstwhile Pentagon favourite Ahmed Chalabi.

It is backed by the Shiites' highest religious leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani but excludes firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Iran's Islamic regime remained at the centre of international concerns in 2004 by pressing on with a suspect nuclear programme, testing new ballistic missiles, ousting reformists from office and clamping down on dissent.

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