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Straw says unaware of any Iranian interference in Iraq

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Tuesday that he was "grateful" for Iran's cooperation in occupied Iraq and that he was not aware of any Iranian interference that was causing insecurity in the country, IRNA reported from London.

When he was in Iraq last week, " I received few complaints about the position of the Iranian government." The leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Jalal Talabani, was "applauding" the cooperation after visiting Tehran, he said.

Straw was giving evidence to the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Select Committee, which is drawing up a report into the British government's relations with Iran.

Asked whether Iran was trying to pressure Iraq's majority Shia population, he said there were "no suggestions," although he said it was highly probable that Tehran, as could be expected as a neighbour, was talking with the community.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani was viewed as being "very independent" and Britain's best information was that he "makes his own decisions," the Foreign Secretary told the all-party group of MPs.

He said that it was "not to my knowledge" that Iran has any links with terrorist organizations in Iraq. The principal source of attacks on the occupying Anglo-American coalition was from what he called "former regime loyalists" to Saddam Hussein.

Straw questioning followed his participation in an unprecedented visit to Iran with his French and German counterparts last month that resulted in reaching an agreement on the country's nuclear programme. It also comes after members of the committee paid a recent visit to Tehran.

Questioned if he thought Iran would stick to its agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he said it was "so far, so good" and believed Iran would continue to meet its obligations.

The Foreign Secretary said that he did not expect "the full weight of article 8 to come into play," in reference to the final paragraph of last week's IAEA resolution, declaring that the board would immediately convene should Iran fail to meet its obligations.

He confirmed that if Iran continued to cooperate, Europe looked forward to supplying technology to the country, including the civil nuclear programme, which was part of the agreement.

Asked how a consensus was reached with the US, Straw said there had been a "lot of discussions" and he added it was what France and Germany also wanted to achieve.

It involved a process that "arrived at the language" in last week's resolution to meet all concerns and it was thought to be satisfactory, he said.

... Payvand News - 12/3/03 ... --

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