President Ahmadinejad: Iran will help U.S. in Iraq if it stops 'bullying' policy

By The Associated Press

Haaretz

Kislev 6, 5767

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proposed Sunday that he would help the United States calm Iraq if Washington changes what he described as its "bullying" policy toward Iran.

"We are ready to help you," Ahmadinejad declared while addressing a group of members of the Basij paramilitary group, affiliated with the elite Revolutionary Guard.

But Iran's firebrand president took the U.S. to task, questioning its motives for invading Iraq.

"You went to Iraq to topple Saddam and find weapons of mass destruction, but it was clear to us that you came in order to dominate the region and its oil."

Ahmadinejad said that the U.S. and Britain are paying for the instability and violence in Iraq. "You have been trapped in a quagmire and locked in your place with nowhere to go."

"The Iranian nation is ready to help you to get out of the quagmire - on condition that you resume behaving in a just manner and avoid bullying and invading," he added.

"Then, nations of the region, headed by the Iranian nation, will be ready to show you the path of salvation," Ahmadinejad said. "It is the time for the leaders of the U.S. and U.K to listen. You have reached a dead end in our region as well as in the world."

But Washington was unimpressed by the Iranian president's offer.

"The Iranians have made comments similar to this in the past. There's nothing new there," Julie Reside, a State Department spokeswoman, said Sunday.

President George Bush is scheduled to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki when he visits Jordan Wednesday and Thursday. His trip follows Vice President Dick Cheney's brief stop Saturday in Saudi Arabia, another of Iraq's neighbors, to confer with its leader on regional issues.

The unusual succession of trips appears to reflect U.S. determination to rally allies at a time when Washington is considering overhauling its Iraq policy.

Since the Democratic victory in U.S. midterm elections, the Bush administration has been under increased pressure at home to approach Iran and Syria for help in Iraq. Such a measure is believed to be one of the
recommendations by a panel on Iraq led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was scheduled to visit Tehran on Saturday. But on Friday, he had to postpone his trip until Baghdad's airport - closed in a security clampdown after the violence - reopens.

Iran is believed to back Iraqi Shiite militias blamed in sectarian killings that have killed thousands this year. Iran has repeatedly denied the charges.