Iran Proposes International Security Force to Take Over in Iraq

An Iranian proposal for troops from Iran, Syria and other Arab states to replace U.S. forces in Iraq was swiftly rejected and ridiculed yesterday at a high-level gathering of Iraq's neighbors and world powers, the U.S. newspaper The Washington Times said in a report on Sunday.

"As top diplomats from two dozen countries and international organizations took turns to discuss how to improve Iraq's security, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki suggested that a coalition from neighboring Arab states take over from U.S. forces, conference participants said."

"The Iranian delegation distinguished itself again today with the most extraordinary proposal," said David Satterfield, the State Department's top coordinator on Iraq, who accompanied U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the Istanbul meeting.

Ryan C. Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, who also attended the session, said "Mr. Mottaki specifically identified Iran and Syria as potential troop contributors." Crocker called the Iranian idea a "fantasy" that should not be "dignified" with a response.

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal offered the most forceful rejection of Mottaki's proposal, saying it would do nothing to stabilize Iraq, diplomats said. They noted that no one voiced support for the idea, and it was not clear whether it had at least Syria's backing.

Rice met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, but they spent most of their time discussing the upcoming presidential election in Lebanon, Satterfield said. He added that Rice warned Damascus to refrain from interfering in the vote.

Crocker said he expects to hold more talks on Iraq's security with Iranian diplomats in Baghdad in the near future, following two unproductive rounds earlier this year.

On the sidelines of yesterday's conference, Rice also acted as a mediator between Iraq and Turkey in search of a way to prevent attacks by the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, against Turkey.

During a three-way meeting, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, promised "a number of visible measures implemented on the ground to show our seriousness" about hunting down and arresting PKK leaders.

He did not rule out joint military action with Turkey against the PKK.

Satterfield said the United States wants the Iraqi authorities and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq to "block" the movement of goods, supplies and people, as well as to disrupt logistics benefiting the PKK.

"They should apprehend PKK figures, deny any facilities and close all offices," he said.

In northern Iraq, a Kurdish official was quoted by wire reports as saying that the KRG had shut down the offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party, which sympathizes with the PKK.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met in Istanbul with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is scheduled to visit President Bush at the White House on Monday.

"The prime minister renewed the willingness of the Iraqi government to take steps to isolate the terrorist PKK, prevent any help reaching its members, chase and arrest them, and put them in front of the Iraqi judiciary because of their terrorist activities," Maliki's office said.

The Turkish parliament voted last week to authorize Turkish troops to cross the border into northern Iraq to root out an estimated 3,000 PKK guerrillas. Nearly 40,000 Turks have been killed since the PKK took up its armed struggle for Kurdish self-rule in southeast Turkey in 1984.


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