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Iran denies militia backing in Iraq

  • Story Highlights
  • Iraqi government presents "evidence" that Iran is smuggling weapons
  • Iran said it supports Iraq's efforts to get rid of armed militias, official said
  • Official said visit was "positive"; delegation will return to Iraq on Saturday
  • U.S. and Iraqi forces in Baghdad's Sadr City are said to be battling militia members
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- An Iraqi delegation that arrived in Tehran on Wednesday confronted Iranian officials with "evidence" that Iran is smuggling weapons and explosive devices into Iraq and training Iraqi militants, charges that the Iranians vehemently denied, an Iraqi politician said Saturday.

"The Iranian side was hurt" by these allegations, Haidar al-Abadi said.

Al-Abadi is a parliament member from the ruling United Iraqi Alliance and a member of al-Maliki's Dawa party.

He said Saturday that the five-member delegation presented the Iranians with evidence of "weapon and explosive device smuggling, and the existence of training camps for Iraqi militants in Iran."

The Iraqis also supplied "proof that most of the Basra outlaw leadership had fled into Iran" after a military operation that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki launched this year against Shiite militias in the southern city, al-Abadi said.

Al-Abadi did not explain what the "evidence" was.

The Iranian officials "completely denied ... training, financing and arming" militant groups in Iraq, al-Abadi said.

They maintained that Iran controls its border with Iraq and that weapons are not smuggled into the neighboring country. The Iranians also said they take in Iraqis who are seeking refuge, al-Abadi said.

He said the Iranians insisted that the weapons and explosives are already in Iraq and suggested that others are trying to stir up trouble between the two countries by forging weapons with Iranian markings.

The Iranians said "they support Iraq and its government and its effort in getting rid of armed groups and outlaws," al-Abadi said.

However, despite these "problems at the beginning with accusations and counteraccusations," the delegation's visit was "positive," he said. The Iraqi delegation, led by deputy parliament speaker Khaled al-Atia, will return to Iraq on Saturday, al-Abadi said.

The delegation emphasized that the visit "stems from wanting to have good neighborly relations," he said.

They did not meet with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Sami al-Askari, an al-Maliki adviser, said this week that the group would seek a meeting with Iran's supreme leader.

Al-Askari said the delegation that traveled to Iran went as a result of a United Iraqi Alliance leadership decision. He said al-Maliki did not send the group on the mission.

Among the delegation was Hadi al-Ameri, a senior Shiite lawmaker, who heads the Badr Organization, formerly known as the Badr Brigades, which was the armed wing of the Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq, one of the top Shiite parties in Iraq.

Bush administration officials say Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force has provided training and weapons for militants in Iraq.

"Just know that the evidence inside of Baghdad has been shared with the Iraqi leadership, and that's where it stands right now," said Marine Lt. Gen. John Sattler, director of strategy, plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi, a spokesman for Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, criticized the move to send an Iraqi delegation to Tehran, saying the issue should be settled in Iraq between Sadrists and the Iraqi government.

U.S. and Iraqi forces in Baghdad's Sadr City are said to be battling al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia.

Al-Obeidi noted that a high-level Sadrist delegation met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani recently to deal with the Sadr City crisis.

The delegation did not meet with al-Sadr, who is in Iran, and had not planned to do so. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq, Jomana Karadsheh and Joe Sterling contributed to this report.

All About Supreme Islamic Council of IraqIraqIranGeorge W. Bush

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