New York Times
June 9, 2008 By Andrew E. Kramer
BAGHDAD — Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, sought to soothe Iranian opposition to a long-term American military presence in Iraq by offering assurances in Tehran on Sunday that American bases would not be used to attack Iran.
“We will not allow Iraq to become a platform for harming the security of Iran and its neighbors,” Mr. Maliki said, according to the Iranian state-run news agency, IRNA, which reported that he met with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the second day of a three-day visit.
The Iraqi prime minister also held talks with Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Vice President Parviz Davoudi, among other officials.
Iran has made no secret that it opposes a long-term security pact, currently being negotiated by American and Iraqi officials, which among other things would address the future of American bases in Iraq. Iranian authorities have spoken against the agreement in the past week, saying it would harm the interests of the Iraqi people.
There was no direct reference to the pact during the meeting between Mr. Ahmadinejad and Mr. Maliki, but the ISNA news agency quoted Mr. Ahmadinejad as saying, “Iraq must reach a certain level of stability so that its enemies are not able to impose their influence.”
Mr. Maliki, the leader of a Shiite political party that took refuge in Iran during the rule of Saddam Hussein, has taken a less adversarial position than the United States on Iranian support for Shiite militias in Baghdad and southern Iraq. Still, Mr. Maliki was also expected to use the visit to present evidence of Iranian influence in Iraq, the Iraqi state newspaper, Al Sabah, reported before he departed.
Even as Mr. Maliki met with officials in Tehran, the United States military released a statement saying soldiers had captured the leader of an Iranian-backed assassination squad who had smuggled fighters in and out of Iran for training. American soldiers raiding a house in eastern Baghdad detained the man on Sunday, the military said.
The United States military regularly announces the detention of militia fighters it says are operating with Iranian support. Iranian authorities deny they have a hand in the fighting.
Also on Sunday, Turkey bombed a mountainous region in northern Iraq where Kurdistan Workers Party rebels are based, the Turkish military said in a statement. The Kurdish rebel group is fighting for independence in Kurdish regions in southeastern Turkey.
Elsewhere in Iraq on Sunday, a roadside bomb killed an American soldier in eastern Baghdad and a suicide bomber in a van killed an American soldier in Kirkuk, the United States military said. The van attack also wounded 18 American soldiers.
A mortar shell struck near the American-controlled Green Zone in Baghdad, killing three civilians and wounding seven.
Three roadside bombs left for Iraqi police patrols and at a police recruiting center in Baghdad killed four policemen and recruits and wounded 33 policemen and bystanders, officials said.
In northern Iraq, gunmen opened fire on a police patrol in Mosul, killing three policemen. Southeast of Baghdad, gunmen killed five shepherds in a field. Nazila Fathi contributed reporting from Tehran.