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Iraq Top Diplomat Says Neighbors Key to Stability


Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari says the role of Iraq's neighbors is key to bringing stability to his nation. But he says that, so far, most of them have not been very helpful. The Iraqi foreign minister made his comments in an address to the Council on Foreign Relations, a private group based in New York.

Zebari has been outspoken in criticizing Iraq's neighbors for not doing more to support the Iraqi government. Middle Eastern nations, he says, have offered Baghdad little help and, in some cases, tried to undermine the government and supported terrorists. "They have not been very helpful in different ways and that is the complaint I have conveyed to all of our neighbors. In terms of the media campaign, I wish there was good monitoring of the media of the region after the death of (al-Qaida in Iraq leader) Zarqawi. Their response to this very important event for ordinary Iraqis and the way they played it was most unfortunate because they lied. Also in terms of funding. These people (insurgents) get their funding from sources in the region. There are foreign terrorists who are crossing the borders. There are many ways they could assist, but I think this government, we will meet with them all. We hope that they will be more cooperative," he said.

But Zebari says the situation is beginning to change. For example, he says Iraq and Syria will soon restore full diplomatic relations.

Zebari says Iran is the one nation in the region that has supported Iraq in its struggle. The foreign minister says Iran's agenda differs from other regional players. "The Iranian attitude is different. They have a different agenda from others. They are not trying to destroy or undermine the government because they believe this government is friendly to them. Remember one thing: Iran was the first country to recognize the regime change and to recognize the governing council. It is nervous definitely. It is uncomfortable about the presence of 130-thousand U.S. troops on its border. But on the other hand, these forces removed one of the archenemies of Iran, Saddam Hussein, and in Afghanistan they removed the Taleban, which again was a threat to them," he said.

But Zebari adds that he also realizes Iranians try to influence Iraq's Shi'ite community. He says the new Iraqi government has presented Teheran with a complete account of the ways Iran is suspected of interfering in Iraq's internal affairs.

Zebari also says reports that he supports Iran's efforts to develop a nuclear weapon were based on a misquoted statement. Zebari says he actually said Iraq respects Iran's right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, subject to the standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

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