Iran Denies Supporting Iraq Militias

(CBS/AP) Iran's U.N. Mission said allegations by U.S. officials that the country is supporting the insurgency in Iraq are "unfounded" and "baseless."

The mission cited recent comments about Iran's relations with Iraq from senior United States officials, including President Bush and at U.S. Congressional hearings.

In a statement Thursday, Iran's United Nations Mission said the charges are "but futile efforts to distract the international community's attention, along with that of the U.S. public opinion."

"Iran stands to highly benefit from stability, security and prosperity in Iraq, as it will immensely suffer from insecurity and instability in that country," the mission said.

Last week, Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told Congress that Iranian-backed "special groups" pose "the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq" if unchecked.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. will be as aggressive as possible to counter the increase in Iranian support for militias.

Earlier this year, Mr. Bush called Iran the world's leading state sponsor of terror and said that Iran funds militant groups and sends arms to Shiite extremists in Iraq.

After a White House meeting Thursday which centered on Iran, President Bush and his British counterpart Gordon Brown held a joint news conference in which they both called for a tough stance on Tehran - particularly as regards the Islamic Republic's nuclear ambitions.

Iran issued Thursday's statement a week before the country attends a conference of Iraq's neighbors in Kuwait.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on Iran to end its backing of Shia militias. She also told reporters in Washington she has no plans to meet Iran's foreign minister at the conference next week.

In May 2007 at a meeting in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, Iraq's neighbors promised to stop foreign militants from joining Iraq's insurgency, a pledge the U.S. says has not been met.

Iran's U.N. Mission said the country's best interest lies in a democratic and prosperous Iraq at peace with itself.

"Iran has taken various concrete steps to help the Iraqi government to bring about stability ... and has been unequivocal in both its strong support for stability and national unity in Iraq and in its condemnation of any efforts to cause instability, insecurity and sectarian violence and terrorism in the country," it said.

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