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Iranian Diplomat: Tehran Plans to 'Greatly' Expand Military, Economic Ties With Baghdad

29 January 2007

Iran's ambassador to Iraq says Tehran plans to greatly expand its military and economic ties with Baghdad.

In an interview with The New York Times newspaper published Monday, Hassan Kazemi Qomi says Iran is prepared to train, equip and advise Iraqi forces for what he calls "the security fight". He also says Tehran is ready to assume major responsibility for the reconstruction of Iraq.

Qomi says Iran will soon open a national bank in the Iraqi capital. The paper quotes Iraqi banking official Hussein al-Uzri as saying Iran had received a license to open the new bank, which would be the first foreign-owned lender in Iraq.

Washington has accused Tehran of meddling in Iraqi affairs, and has authorized U.S. forces to take action against Iranians engaging in activities deemed to be hostile.

In the interview, Qomi acknowledges that two Iranians detained by U.S. forces in Baghdad last month were Iranian security officials, as the U.S. military has alleged.

But, Qomi denies U.S. charges that the Iranian officials were involved in planning attacks on American and Iraqi forces.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters.

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