Iran denies military involvement in Iraq
Posted on Aug 24 2014 | IANS
Baghdad, Aug 24 : Iran Sunday denied allegations that it had sent troops to Iraq for fighting Islamic State (IS) militants, and called for regional cooperation against the extremist Sunni militant group.
"We are on the side of our Iraqi brothers from all sects -- Kurdish, Sunnis and Shia -- who are fighting terrorism, but we do not believe that they need the presence of Iranian soldiers in order to do this task," IRNA quoted Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif as saying during a joint press conference with his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari in Baghdad.
Zarif said his visit to Iraq reflected Iran's support for the country in its fight against terrorism.
Iraq has been battling various insurgent groups for years, but however, over the past few months, the IS militants have made great advances by storming cities abandoned by Iraqi soldiers, prompting international concern and outrage.
"We are confronting this group in Iraq and Syria because this group is not against a certain ethnicity, sect or a country. It is against the whole region, as well as international peace and security, and needs a coordinated action," Zarif said.
The IS is committing acts of horrendous genocide and crimes against humanity and needs to be tackled by the international community and by every country in the region, he added.
Earlier this month, the IS stormed towns in northern Iraq, threatening and executing numerous members of Iraq's religious minorities, including Christians and Yazidis.
Earlier in the day, Zarif met top Iraqi officials, including caretaker Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Prime Minister designate Haider al-Abadi and Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jubouri.
In a statement by Abadi's office, the prime minister-designate told the visiting Iranian minister that the region is threatened by the presence of the IS group and that cooperation with Iran was essential, Xinhua reported.
Iraq and Iran fought a bloody eight-year war in 1980s, resulting in the loss of one million lives.
However, relations between the Shia Muslim Iran and the Shia-dominated government of Iraq were strengthened considerably after Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated regime was ousted in a US-led invasion in 2003.