By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, May 5, 2008
The statement came as Iraqi officials find themselves trapped between the United States and Iran, which have each accused the other of wreaking havoc in Iraq. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is in a particularly delicate situation because he is close to American and Iranian officials.
Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh called reporters late Sunday night to clarify remarks he made at a news conference earlier in the day, when he appeared to say that there was no hard evidence that Iran was allowing weapons to come into Iraq. Dabbagh said his comments had been misinterpreted.
"There is an interference and evidence that they have interfered in Iraqi affairs," Dabbagh said in an interview arranged by a U.S. official. When asked how he would characterize the proof that Iranian weapons are flowing into Iraq, he said: "It is a concrete evidence."
The U.S. government has long accused Iran of providing the powerful roadside bombs known as explosively formed penetrators to Shiite militiamen who attack American troops. Iran has denied any such role.
Dabbagh said that after Maliki launched an offensive last month in the southern city of Basra, weapons were found that were clearly produced in Iran.
"The truth came out; there is evidence of Iranian weapons in Iraq," he said. "Now we need to document who sent them."
Dabbagh said the high-level committee was formed three days ago and includes officials from the Interior and Defense Ministries.
Meanwhile, in the Sadr City district of the capital, clashes between U.S. troops and fighters loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr continued overnight Saturday. The U.S. military said it killed at least five fighters in Hellfire missile attacks.
Elsewhere in Baghdad, Iraq's first lady survived a roadside bomb attack on her motorcade as she traveled to a cultural festival at the National Theater. Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, the wife of President Jalal Talabani, was not hurt, but four of her guards were injured, according to Talabani's office.
And in the northern city of Mosul, gunmen killed a journalist, Sarwa Abdel-Wahab Thanoun, who worked for various television stations and for an Iraqi news agency. The attackers pulled Thanoun, 36, out of a car and shot her in front of her mother.
At least 127 journalists have been killed in Iraq, the most dangerous country in the world for reporters, since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
Special correspondent Dlovan Brwari in Mosul contributed to this report.