updated 6/4/2008 10:59:02 AM ET 2008-06-04T14:59:02

One of Iran's most powerful politicians vowed Wednesday that the Islamic world will stop a long-term security agreement that is being negotiated by the U.S. and Iraq.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani told a gathering of Muslim figures in the holy city of Mecca that the United States is trying to enslave Iraqis through the deal. This comments were the strongest and most high-level public condemnations of the potential security deal by an Iranian official.

"The essence of this agreement is to turn the Iraqis into slaves before the Americans, if it is sealed," the former president of Iran said. "This will not happen. The Iraqi people, the Iraqi government and the Islamic nation will not allow it."

'Permanent occupation'
Rafsanjani said the U.S. "occupation of Iraq represents a danger to all nations of the region" and warned that the security deal would create a "permanent occupation." Rafsanjani heads two of the country's most powerful clerical governing bodies, the Expediency Council and the Assembly of Experts.

Iran's previous criticism of the security agreement has largely been in private talks with Iraqi officials.

The deal, which the Iraqis and Americans hope to finish in midsummer, would establish a long-term security relationship between Iraq and the United States, and a parallel agreement would provide a legal basis to keep U.S. troops in Iraq after the U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year.

Supporters believe the deal would help assure Iraq's Arab neighbors, notably Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, that Iraq's Shiite-led government would not become a satellite of Shiite-dominated Iran as American military role here fades.

But public critics in Iraq worry the deal will lock in American military, economic and political domination of the country. Some Iraqi politicians have attacked the deal, especially those loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, the anti-American cleric whose militiamen fought U.S. and Iraqi troops in Baghdad until a May truce ended seven weeks of fighting.

Invasion fears
The agreement is likely to be among the issues discussed this weekend when Iraq's Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is due to visit Iran — his second trip there in a year. Ahead of the visit, his party sought to calm worries by insisting that the deal would not allow foreign troops to use Iraq as a ground to invade another country — a reference to Iranian fears of a U.S. attack.

Rafsanjani was speaking at a Saudi-sponsored conference aimed at unifying Muslim voices before an interfaith dialogue that Saudi King Abdullah wants to launch with Christian and Jewish religious figures.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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