Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he has rejected Obama administration requests for help in fighting against Islamic State militants in Iraq. U.S. officials say there is no military coordination with Iran but Washington is open to future talks on fighting the Islamic State.
Khamenei said the U.S. ambassador in Iraq asked for Iran's cooperation against Islamic State militants. In a statement on his official website, Iran's supreme leader said he rejected that request "because they have dirty hands."
In brief remarks to state television, Khamenei said U.S. statements on forming a coalition against Islamic State fighters "are blank, hollow, and self-serving," adding on his Twitter feed that the U.S. goal here is to turn Iraq and Syria into "Pakistan, were it can commit crimes whenever it wants."
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said it is no secret the United States has had discussions with Iran about the coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq. But she said U.S. officials "are not and will not coordinate militarily" with Iran in that fight.
In a written statement, she said the Islamic State "presents a serious threat to Iran as it does to every other state in the region." Psaki said U.S. and Iranian officials will continue talks on Iran's nuclear program in New York later this week, and there "may be another opportunity on the margins in the future to discuss Iraq."
Iran was not invited to talks here in Paris on the anti-Islamic-State coalition. Iraqi President Fouad Massoum told the Associated Press that he thinks Iran should have been invited, given the long shared border with Iraq and the humanitarian aid Iran has been providing during the crisis.
In an interview with VOA last week, Secretary Kerry said the United States and Iran are acting independently against the Islamic State in Iraq, though there is some coordination to ensure that they stay out of each other's line of fire.
He told reporters in Turkey that it "would not be appropriate" to have Iran at these talks in Paris because of Iranian military support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Iran's state news agency says deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told a visiting French lawmaker that the best way to fight Islamic State militants "is to help and strengthen the Iraqi and Syrian governments," which he says "have been engaged in a serious struggle against terrorism."
President Obama said part of his strategy against the Islamic State is to strengthen opponents of the Syrian government.