Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Sunday he would help the United States calm Iraq if Washington changes what he described as its “bullying” policy toward Iran.
But the Islamic Republic denied reports that it was trying to organize a summit bringing together Ahmadinejad and the leaders of Iraq and Syria.
The reports of a meeting came as the Bush administration is under increased pressure at home to approach Iran and Syria for help in Iraq. Such a measure is believed to be one of the recommendations by a panel on Iraq led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III.
“We are ready to help you, Ahmadinejad declared while addressing a group of members of the Basij paramilitary group, affiliated with the elite Revolutionary Guard.
Ahmadinejad said the U.S. and Britain are paying for the instability and violence in Iraq. “You have been trapped in a quagmire and locked in your place with nowhere to go.”
“The Iranian nation is ready to help you to get out of the quagmire — on condition that you resume behaving in a just manner and avoid bullying and invading,” he added.
Julie Reside, a State Department spokesman, responded that Iran’s offer was nothing new.
“The Iranians have made comments similar to this in the past,” she said.
Mohammed Ali Hosseini, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said a summit involving Iraq and Syria was never on Iran’s agenda.
“Such a summit needs certain preliminaries,” he added, but did not give details.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was scheduled to visit Tehran on Saturday, but had to postpone his trip until Baghdad’s airport — closed in a security clampdown after the violence — reopens.
Iran is believed to back Iraqi Shiite militias blamed in sectarian killings that have killed thousands this year. Iran has repeatedly denied the charges.
Nuclear capability is source of tension
A major source of tension between the U.S. and Iran is the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, which many Western nations fear is a cover for weapons production.
Iran has repeatedly refused to suspend uranium enrichment, defying an August Security Council deadline, and saying it will not halt the process as a precondition to negotiations over its nuclear program.
Hosseini promised improved cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency if the U.N. nuclear watchdog, rather than the Security Council, takes charge of Iran’s nuclear dossier. Iran has made similar promises in the past.
“If the case is returned to the agency itself, it would be possible to review current ambiguities better than before,” Hosseini said. “The agency is the best and the most qualified body for the case.”
The IAEA officially turned over Iran’s dossier to the Security Council in February after Iran had failed to answer key questions about its nuclear activities.
Iran’s lack of transparency has increased suspicions by the U.S., and several of its Western allies, that Iran is trying to make atomic weapons, a charge it denies. It says that its goal is to generate electricity.