Iran rejects US claims of supplying weapons in Iraq

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The Independent Online

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian President, has flatly denied American charges that his country is supplying sophisticated weaponry to Shia militant groups, saying that Washington was blaming others in order to hide its own defeat in Iraq.

"The US administration and [President George] Bush are used to accusing others," Mr Ahmadinejad told ABC television's Good Morning America yesterday, less than 24 hours after US military officials in Baghdad showed reporters part of what they called "a growing body" of evidence that roadside bombs and other devices made in Iran had been used to kill 170 American and coalition soldiers.

The officials displayed fragments of some of the weapons involved, claiming that those at the "highest levels" of government in Tehran were involved in arming Iraqi militants. But the fact that US forces were "showing some pieces of papers" and calling them documents proved nothing, the Iranian President said.

Mr Ahmadinejad's remarks came amid growing fears that the Bush administration was moving towards some form of military action against Iran, probably aimed at nuclear facilities involved in what Washington says is a programme to build an atomic weapon.

There were, however, signs that both sides are seeking to cool things down.

Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, was notably restrained, saying merely that "if the President of Iran wants to put a stop to it, we wish him luck and hope he'll do it real soon".

Mr Ahmadinejad also sounded less belligerent than usual, insisting he wanted dialogue, and arguing that turmoil in Iraq did not serve Iran's interests. "We shy away from any kind of conflict, any kind of bloodshed," he said. World problems could be solved through dialogue, logic "and a sense of friendship".