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Iraq Accuses Iran of Attack Plan

By Waiel Faleh
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, April 22, 1999

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Iraq has accused Iran of using the violent actions of an Iranian opposition group to justify a possible attack against Iraq.

The accusation came in a letter from Iraq's foreign minister that was delivered to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday. Iraq's official news agency issued a copy of the letter.

Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf rejected Iran's assertions that Iraq is to blame for the violent acts of the Mujahedeen Khalq, an Iranian opposition group with bases in Iraq.

The group claimed responsibility for the killing of Iran's deputy chief of staff, Brig. Ali Sayyad Shirazi, on April 10.

Shirazi was a senior army commander during Iran's 1980-88 war with Iraq. More than a million people were killed or injured on both sides in the war. The countries accuse each other of still holding prisoners of war.

Al-Sahhaf said the Khalq also has bases in countries other than Iraq, some of them also neighbors of Iran.

Iran is only ``trying to find excuses and a cover'' for any aggression it might carry out against Iraq and ``to interfere in Iraq's internal affairs,'' the letter said.

The Mujahedeen Khalq, which has a close relationship with the Iraqi government, has more than 20,000 militarily trained men and women in at least five camps near the Iranian border. The group's fighters often target Iranian government sites.

Iran also hosts Iraqi opposition groups, and Baghdad accuses Tehran of using them to foment trouble in Iraq. The exiled dissidents have been blamed for assassination attempts on several Iraqi leaders including President Saddam Hussein's son, Odai.

``Iran is trying to divert attention from the fact that it is supporting traitors and terrorist groups inside its territory,'' al-Sahhaf said.

The letter accused Iran of killing Shiite religious leaders in Iraq in an effort to arouse the underprivileged Shiite majority against the minority Sunni rulers.


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