Iraqi Shiite envoys brief al-Maliki on Tehran talks

Baghdad  - Iraq Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has met senior Shiite leaders who held talks in Tehran on concerns that Iran is arming and funding militias in Iraq, an Iraqi politician said Sunday.

The elite delegation had been dispatched to Tehran by al-Maliki to convey Iraq's concerns and discuss US accusations that Iran had a role in recent fighting between Shiite militias and Iraqi and US troops in the southern city of Basra and Baghdad's sadr City area.

Al-Maliki and the leader of the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, were told by members of the delegation that Tehran gave its backing to Iraq's offensive against militias, a UIA member told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

The politician, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to reveal any further details of the meeting.

Al-Maliki and his ally al-Hakim have very strong ties with Iran although the premier went to great lengths in an interview with the Dubai-based al-Arabiya news broadcaster Wednesday to stress his independence.

"I have never been the man of Iran, and I told America that I am no the man of America in Iraq," al-Maliki said.

Among al-Maliki's envoys are his long-time political allies, Ali al-Adib and Hadi al-Ameri, who spent many years in exile in Iran and have friendly relations with the Iranian government.

A large cache of Iranian-made weapons discovered by Iraqi troops in Basra a few weeks ago was taken by the US military as a further indication of Iran's growing role in financing Shiite militias in Iraq.

There has been a recent increase in attacks using Iranian-made rockets on Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, which is the seat of the Iraqi cabinet and the site of the US embassy, according to US military officials.

The US is accusing "special groups" cells, which it says are trained and directed by Iran. (dpa)

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