Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Boston.com / News / World / Iraq's neighbors prepare to meet in Iran to discuss terrorist infiltration

Boston.com / News / World / Iraq's neighbors prepare to meet in Iran to discuss terrorist infiltration: "Iraq's neighbors prepare to meet in Iran to discuss terrorist infiltration
By Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press, 11/30/2004 06:44

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Iran's capital is an unlikely place for Iraq's neighbors and Egypt to discuss the infiltration of terrorists into Iraq. Not only does the Persian country have a long history of conflict with Arabs, it is also accused by the United States of supporting the insurgency across the border.

Tuesday's meeting, though, is intended to send a signal that Tehran recognizes the threat of groups such as al-Qaida and is ready to help stabilize Iraq ahead of the first elections since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

''The objective of the meeting is to help Iraqis overcome instability and create security especially on their borders with neighbors,'' said Ali Asghar Ahmadi, an Iranian security official.

Ahmadi said Iran tries to keep insurgents from infiltrating its border with Iraq. But at nearly 1,000 miles long, the frontier is hard to police.

Iran's solution is to offer to train Iraqis to police the border and provide them with the necessary equipment.

The participants have a wide range of national interests many at odds with each other that could pose further problems for Iraq.

The United States is expected to push Iran to clamp down on militants entering Iraq, but on another front it is pressing Tehran to freeze any nuclear activities.

Turkey, Iraq's northern neighbor, may be more interested in pursuing its longstanding demand for a crackdown on Kurdish militants who are allegedly holed up in northern Iraq and are fighting for autonomy in southeastern Turkey.

The conference is designed to help countries share intelligence on militant groups suspected of ties to the insurgency in Iraq. Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt and the United Nations have all sent representatives.

The meeting may also boost efforts by Iraqi government officials to undermine support for militants and organize elections scheduled for Jan. 30.

The selection of Iran as the venue is seen as symbolic.

''It is an assertion by Iran that it is committed to Iraq's internal security and that Iran agrees to stopping infiltration through its borders,'' said Abdul-Ridha Aseeri, a political science teacher at Kuwait University.

Iraqi Vice President Ibrahim al-Jaafari told President Mohammad Khatami in Tehran Saturday that insurgents, having been flushed out of Fallujah, were ''changing their tactics from a military phase into a political agenda to undermine the upcoming elections.''

Washington has accused Tehran of interfering in Iraq and sending money and infiltrators to support the insurgency there. Tehran has denied the charges and says it has no interest in fomenting instability across the border.

It was unclear how Iraq would respond to the Iranian offer to train security personnel. The countries fought a war from 1980-88 that killed or wounded nearly one million people on both sides.

Egypt and Jordan have also offered to train Iraqis."