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Iraq says it will hit at countries backing rebels
Updated: 2004-07-20 20:48

Iraq is ready to retaliate against countries it accuses of supporting violence wracking the country, the country's defense minister warned Tuesday.

Hazim al-Shaalan mentioned no countries by name but accused old foe Iran of "blatant interference." Iraq has also complained in the past about guerrilla fighters entering the country from Syria.

"We are prepared to move the arena of the attacks on Iraq's honor and its rights to those countries," he was quoted as saying by the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.

"We've spoken to them and confronted them with facts and evidence, but none of them have taken any action to stop supporting terrorism in Iraq," he said.

Iraq blames a wave of bombings and assassinations, which has claimed hundreds of lives including senior Iraqi politicians, on remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime as well as foreign Islamic militants who have entered from neighboring countries.

"They (Iranians) confess to the presence of their spies in Iraq who have a mission to shake up the social and political situation," the defense minister said.

"Iranian intrusion has been vast and unprecedented since the establishment of the Iraqi state.

Washington, too, has accused Tehran of seeking to destabilize and gain influence in Iraq, which like Iran, is predominantly Shi'ite Muslim. Tehran denies interfering in Iraqi affairs.

Ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein waged a protracted war against Iran between 1980 and 1988 in which hundreds of thousands died on both sides.

Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi -- on a tour of Arab states bordering Iraq -- won Jordanian support for his drive to crush insurgents.

Syria agreed earlier this month to help seal its long desert border with Iraq and stop foreign insurgents infiltrating into Iraq to fight U.S. forces and the U.S.-backed authorities.

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