BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq's ambassador to the Netherlands confronted Iran's foreign minister during a speech Wednesday, accusing his country of hypocrisy in its rhetoric against the United States.
It was a rare exchange between officials of the neighboring states, which fought an eight-year war against one another in the 1980s.
The incident occurred after Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki complained during an address to scholars and diplomats at the Clingendael Institute, an international relations think-tank, that it would be a double standard if the U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program.
Iran has insisted on its right to enrich uranium for what it says is a peaceful energy program.
"The U.S. administration so often refers to Iran's nuclear capability as a threat against regional and international peace," Mottaki said. But "it is the U.S. that ... invaded without any endorsement of the U.N. Security Council, another member of the United Nations, namely Iraq, and so has set off the most dangerous security challenge in the Middle East."
Mottaki said the endless cycle of violence in Iraq is being fueled by the continued U.S. troop presence in the country.
"The terrorist group in Iraq says, 'Because of the continuation of the occupation of this country, we are fighting,"' he said. "The American says, 'Because of terrorist groups, we continue our staying in Iraq."'
Iraqi Ambassador Siamand Banaa then rose to contradict him, saying that Iran had benefited from the war in Iraq.
"It would strengthen your case and give it much more depth if you tried to avoid cynicism and hypocrisy," Banaa said. "The removal of the worst enemy of the Iraqi people and the Iranian people, Saddam Hussein, who caused the death and destruction of hundreds of thousands and almost the bankruptcy of your country, has been, I think, a great advance for you."
Banaa said Mottaki's analysis was wrong, and that without American troops in his country, "it would be a free-for-all, and in fact real civil war."
He urged Mottaki to get off "the 'America always wrong' brigade."
Mottaki responded by assuring that Iran supports the territorial integrity of Iraq and wants it to return to peace. "Stability in Iraq is stability for Iran, and all its neighboring countries and all the region," he said.