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Iran's vice president criticizes bombings in Iraq, AFP article from Beirut

ME-GEN--Lebanon-Iran-Iraq
 Iran's vice president criticizes bombings in Iraq, voices support for Arab country's stability
 By HUSSEIN DAKROUB, Associated Press Writer

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Iran's vice president said Sunday that his country opposes the wave of bombings to hit Iraq and supports international efforts to help restore peace and stability to the war-torn Arab country.
 Mohammad Ali Abtahi also said Iran had handed over some members of
The al-Qaida terror group who had entered Iran from Afghanistan and Pakistan to neighboring countries.He did not name the countries they were sent to nor say how many al-Qaida members are being held in Iran.
 Iran has admitted to holding members of Osama bin Laden's terrorist group in its custody, including senior members of the network blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Tehran has refused to name those in its custody and said it would return them to their countries of origin.
 On Iraq, Abtahi said Iran was the first Iraqi neighbor to recognize its U.S.-appointed Governing Council "because it is made up of a group of powerful Iraqis."
 "We believe that what the Iraqi people need at this time is stability, security and peace inside Iraq," Abtahi said in a live interview from Tehran with the Dubai-based Al Arabiya satellit channel.
 "We are against anything that harms Iraq's security because Iraq,after these long sufferings at the hands of Saddam Hussein and the U.S.-led war ...needs security," he added.
 In addition to targeting coalition forces, Iraqi insurgents and suicide bombers have in recent months attacked the United Nations and the Red Cross headquarters and Iraqi police stations, killing scores and wounding hundreds more. More than 70 U.S.-led coalition forces have been killed just this month.
 Foreign fighters, Saddam loyalists and Iraqis angered at the U.S.-led occupation are believed to be behind the attacks. U.S. officials have urged Iraq's neighbors Iran and Syria to do more to keep infiltrators out of Iraq.
 Abtahi said America's occupation could end quickly once "Iraq is stabilized and when a group of Iraqis take over power.
¬ęThe (U.S.) occupation must end in Iraq," he said. "We support the Governing Council because this support serves stability and security in Iraq." Iran strongly opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, while the U.S. State Department regards Iran as a supporter of terrorism. Washington is also wary of Iran's influence of Iraq, which fought a bloody eight year war with its Persian neighbor during the 1980s.
 Jalal Talabani, the president of the Iraqi Governing Council, said during a visit to Iran last week that he did not believe Iran was behind violence in Iraq, but said militants could be slipping across the "out of control" border.

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