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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Accuses Tehran of Arming Militants

WASHINGTON -- Iran is supplying Iraqi insurgents with weapons technology used to kill American troops, a senior U.S. diplomat said, sending another warning to Iran against interfering in Iraq.

"We have picked up individuals who we believe are giving very sophisticated explosive technology to Shia insurgent groups who then use that technology to target and kill American soldiers," Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said.

"It's a very serious situation. And the message from the United States is: Iran should cease and desist."

The United States has been tracking Iranian involvement in Iraqi insurgent attacks for about two years and has found increasing evidence that Iran has given assistance to Shiites in southern Iraq, Burns said in an interview with National Public Radio taped for broadcast Thursday.

Washington officials have charged that Iran is providing Shiites with high-grade explosives capable of tearing through the armor on military vehicles.

The United States has repeatedly warned Iran against fueling violence in Iraq and U.S. forces have detained a number of Iranian officials in raids over the past month.

"We warned Iran privately on a number of occasions over the last year and a half and the Iranians, of course, did not appear to listen to that, so now we've begun to detain those Iranian officials," Burns said in the interview.

"We think it's absolutely within our rights to do so under Article 51 of the U.N. charter, which is self-defense."

Iran's ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, told The New York Times this week that Tehran was stepping up its military and economic ties with Baghdad. He also ridiculed evidence the U.S. military said it had that proves Iranian involvement in planning attacks on American and Iraqi forces.

Two U.S. aircraft carriers have been stationed in the Gulf as a warning to Iran.

On Monday, French President Jacques Chirac said in an interview with three newspapers that Iran's possession of a nuclear bomb would not be "very dangerous" and that if it used the weapon on Israel, Tehran would be immediately "razed."

Chirac called reporters back the next day to try to have his quotes retracted but the remarks had already prompted criticism from abroad.

Alexander Pikayev, a Moscow-based defense analyst who is co-chairman of the Committee of Scientists for Global Security, said Chirac's "incautious" remarks revealed "the mood of the French ruling elite."

"French leaders are afraid not so much of Iran's nuclearization, but that Iran will be attacked. France's tough position is not aimed against Iran becoming a nuclear power, but against the United States or Israel striking Iran," he said.

Pikayev added that France had fiercely opposed invading Iraq and now wants to avoid a similar scenario in Iran, having economic interests in that country and having a sizable Iranian and Muslim diaspora, which would not support a strike on Iran.

(Reuters, AP)