Rouhani, a pragmatist who has presided over a thaw in Iran's
relations with the West, also said Tehran was unlikely to send
forces to Iraq but stood ready to provide help within the framework
of international law. Baghdad has not requested such assistance, he
Shi'ite Muslim Iran has been alarmed by the seizure this week of
several major northern Iraqi towns by Sunni Islamist insurgent
forces and their sweep southward to within an hour's drive of
Baghdad, and not far from the Iranian border.
"We all should practically and verbally confront terrorist groups,"
Rouhani told a news conference broadcast live on state television.
Asked if Tehran would work with Washington in tackling the advances
by Sunni insurgents in Iraq, he replied: "We can think about it if
we see America starts confronting the terrorist groups in Iraq or
Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are bent
on recreating a mediaeval caliphate spanning territory they have
carved out in fragmenting Iraq and Syria, where it has exploited a
power vacuum in the midst of civil war.
A senior Iranian official told Reuters earlier this week that
Tehran, which has strong leverage in Shi'ite-majority Iraq, may be
ready to cooperate with Washington in helping Baghdad fight back
against the jihadist ISIL rebels. (Full Story)
The official said the idea of cooperating with the Americans was
being discussed within the Tehran leadership. For now, according to
Iranian media, Iran will send advisers and weaponry, although
probably not troops, to boost Baghdad.
NOT SENDING TROOPS
"Iran has never dispatched any forces to Iraq and it is very
unlikely it will ever happen," Rouhani told Saturday's news
Western diplomats suspect Iran has in the past sent some of its
Revolutionary Guards, a hardline force that works in parallel with
the army, to train and advise the Iraqi army or its militia allies.
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, quoted by Fars news
agency, said: "Supporting the Iraqi government and nation doe not
mean sending troops to Iraq. It means condemning terrorist acts and
closing and safeguarding our joint borders."
In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama said he was reviewing
military options, short of sending combat troops, to help Iraq repel
the insurgency but warned any U.S. action must be accompanied by an
Iraqi government effort to bridge divisions between Shi'ite and
Sunni communities. (Full Story)
[to top of second column]
U.S. officials said there were no contacts going on with Iran over
the crisis in Iraq.
Rouhani said he was not aware of any American plans for Iraq or
whether Washington wanted to help Baghdad.
"If the Iraqi government and nation ask for our help, we will review
it. So far there has not been such a request," he added. "We are
ready to help in the framework of international regulations and
Rouhani said "terrorist groups" were getting financial and political
backing and weaponry from some regional countries and some powerful
He named no countries, but was alluding in part to Sunni Gulf Arabs
who Iran suspects has funnelled support to ISIL.
"Where did ISIL come from? Who is funding this terrorist group? We
had warned everyone, including the West, about the danger of backing
such a terrorist and reckless group."
Gulf Arab governments deny any role in backing ISIL, noting that the
group has long battled Saudi Arabia's allies among other Sunni rebel
factions in Syria.
Saudi Arabia last month designated ISIL a terrorist organisation,
conveying its concern that young Saudis hardened by battle could
come home to target the ruling Al Saud royal family - as happened
after earlier wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
(Reporting by Parisa Hafezi; Writing by William Maclean; Editing by
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