BAGHDAD – The U.S. military accused Iran on Sunday of smuggling surface-to-air missiles and other advanced weapons into Iraq for use against American troops.
Military spokesman Rear Adm. Mark Fox said U.S. troops were continuing to find Iranian-supplied weaponry including the Misagh 1, a portable surface-to-air missile that uses an infrared guidance system.
Other advanced Iranian weaponry found in Iraq includes the RPG-29 rocket-propelled grenade, 240 mm rockets and armor-piercing roadside bombs known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, Fox said.
The charge came as Iran's leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited New York City for speaking engagements at Columbia University and the U.N. General Assembly.
Iran has denied U.S. allegations that it is smuggling weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq, a denial that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reiterated in an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" aired Sunday.
"We don't need to do that. We are very much opposed to war and insecurity," said Ahmadinejad, who arrived in New York Sunday to attend the U.N. General Assembly. "The insecurity in Iraq is detrimental to our interests."
Tensions between Iran and the United States have worried Iraqi officials — many of whom are members of political parties with close ties to Tehran.
A 240 mm rocket was fired this month at the main U.S. headquarters base in Iraq, killing one person and wounding 11.
U.S. officials said the rocket was fired from a west Baghdad neighborhood controlled by Shiite militiamen.
The new allegations of weapons smuggling followed the latest U.S. detention of an Iranian in northern Iraq. Iraqis condemned the arrest, saying the man was in their country on official business.
On Thursday, U.S. troops arrested an Iranian in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah. U.S. officials said he was a member of the elite Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards that smuggles weapons into Iraq.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki condemned the Iranian's arrest, saying he understood the man, who has been identified as Mahmudi Farhadi, had been invited to Iraq.
"The government of Iraq is an elected one and sovereign. When it gives a visa, it is responsible for the visa," he told The Associated Press in an interview in New York. "We consider the arrest ... of this individual who holds an Iraqi visa and a (valid) passport to be unacceptable."
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, also demanded the Iranian's release.
The U.S. military said the suspect was being questioned about "his knowledge of, and involvement in," the transportation of EFPs and other roadside bombs from Iran into Iraq and "his facilitation of travel and training in Iran for Iraqi insurgents." The military said no decision had been made about whether to file charges.
An American soldier was killed Saturday and another wounded when an EFP hit their patrol in eastern Baghdad, the military said.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Farhadi was in charge of border transactions in western Iran and went to Iraq on an official invitation.
He said Iran expects the Iraqi government to provide security for Iranian nationals there and warned the arrest could affect relations between the two neighbors as well.