Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Ahmadinejad says Iran is ready to fill power vacuum in Iraq

Region, Politics
(Gulf News) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared on Tuesday that US political influence in Iraq is "collapsing rapidly" and said his government is ready to help fill any power vacuum. The hard-line leader also defended Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, a fellow Shiite Muslim who has been harshly criticised by American politicians for his unsuccessful efforts to reconcile Iraq's Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
"The political power of the occupiers is collapsing rapidly," Ahmadinejad said at a news conference, referring to US troops in Iraq. "Soon, we will see a huge power vacuum in the region. Of course, we are prepared to fill the gap, with the help of neighbors and regional friends like Saudi Arabia, and with the help of the Iraqi nation."

Ahmadinejad did not elaborate on his remarks, an unusual declaration of Iran's interest in influencing its neighbor's future. The mention of a Saudi role appeared aimed at allaying the fears of Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Muslim nations that Iran wants to dominate in Iraq. Even though Saudi Arabia and Iran have not cooperated in the past, it "doesn't mean it can't happen," Ahmadinejad said.
Iran fought a brutal eight-year war with Saddam Hussein's regime and welcomed the elimination of a deeply hated enemy. But Iran also strongly objects to the presence of America, another rival, over its eastern and western borders in Afghanistan and Iraq. "Occupation is the root of all problems in Iraq," Ahmadinejad said. "It has become clear that occupiers are not able to resolve regional issues. They rudely say (the Iraqi) prime minister and the constitution must change," Ahmadinejad said of US critics. "Who are you? Who has given you the right" to ask for such a change, he added.
Ousting Al Maliki, a longtime Shiite political activist, would require a majority vote in the 275-member Iraqi parliament. As long as the Kurdish parties and the main Shiite bloc back al-Maliki, his opponents lack the votes for that. Ahmadinejad dismissed the possibility of any US military action against Iran, saying Washington has no plan and is not in a position to take such action.

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