Iran Rejects Claim of Interfering in Iraq Vote

Iran (search) on Thursday rejected accusations it was trying to influence January elections in Iraq (search), saying that Iraqis have made it clear they won't take orders from abroad, state media reported.

Iraqi officials know Iran considers the right of Iraqis to determine their own fate a step toward stability and tranquility in Iraq, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told state-run radio.

"The Iraqi people have a shining record in fighting foreign exploitation and occupation and have proven that they won't accept foreign domination," Asefi was quoted by the official Islamic Republic News Agency as saying.

Interim Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawer (search) and Jordan's King Abdullah II, both Sunni Muslims, accused Shiite Muslim-dominated Iran in interviews with the Washington Post newspaper in the United States of trying to influence Jan. 30 elections in Iraq. Some 60 percent of Iraq's 25 million population is Shiite.

The United States also warned Iran against trying to influence the outcome of Iraq's election on Wednesday, reacting to fears that Tehran was seeking a Shiite-dominated Islamic government in Baghdad. Such an outcome would alter a regional status quo in which Shiites, though they comprise majorities in Iran, Iraq and Bahrain, rule only in non-Arab Iran. Iraq and Bahrain have long had Sunni rulers, including ousted Saddam Hussein.

Al-Yawer told the Washington Post that Iran is coaching candidates and putting "huge amounts of money" into the campaign to produce a Shiite-dominated government similar to its own. Iran is governed by Shiite clerics.

"Unfortunately, some political currents in Iraq seek to tarnish the trend of elections there and cause concern in the public opinion," Asefi was quoted by state-run radio as saying. "We expect that Mr. al-Yawer will take the existing sensitive situation into consideration and avoid repeating such comments."

Jordan's King Abdullah also told the Post in an interview published Wednesday that more than 1 million Iranians have entered Iraq, many to vote, and said they were being encouraged by the Iranian government.

Asefi described Abdullah's comments as an insult to the Iraqi people and said they showed the Jordanian king's "ignorance" of the situation in Iraq.

Washington has accused Tehran of interfering in Iraq and sending money and infiltrators to support the insurgency there. Tehran has denied the charges and maintains that although the long, shared border is hard to police, it tries to block any infiltration into Iraq by insurgents.