WASHINGTON – Iraq's top envoy here credits Iran with supporting stability in the region and with intercepting 200 fighters from Afghanistan as they tried to cross the border into Iraq.
In an interview Monday with Associated Press editors and reporters, Rend al-Rahim Francke (search), who heads Iraq's mission in the United States, vigorously disputed any notion that Iran is supporting terrorism in Iraq.
"I absolutely exclude Iran from this," she said, citing the interception of 200 Afghan fighters as one example and Iran's expected attendance Wednesday in Cairo at a conference of Iraq's neighbors.
"We want cooperation and good relations with all the countries in the region," the Iraqi diplomat said.
However, Rahim said that Iraq preferred contributions of troops from Muslim and other countries outside the region, such as Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Morocco.
"There are too many interests and maybe conflicting interests," she said, to have neighboring countries join the U.S.-led coalition of forces from 31 nations.
On a critical note, Rahim said the coalition was not paying enough attention to Iraq's borders.
Rahim's own status is somewhat unclear. She is considered the incoming Iraqi ambassador to Washington but was not among several ambassadors named Monday in Baghdad nor has she presented her credentials to the U.S. government.
Despite reports that Iran is fostering attacks on Iraqis and Westerners in Iraq, Rahim said firmly: "Iran is not the cause of instability in Iraq."
"Iran could have a disruptive role and the fact that it is not is positive.," she said.
Describing as terrorists the insurgents who have mounted an offensive against the Iraqi interim government and the U.S.-led coalition, Rahim said they were remnants of the fallen regime of Saddam Hussein and fighters loyal to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search), the Al Qaeda-linked Jordanian militant blamed for masterminding car bombings and other attacks in Iraq, and the Ansar al Islam group.
Meanwhile, Rahim dismissed reports that Prime Minister Iyad Allawi (search) had carried out the execution of several militants and ordered the execution of others. She suggested the reports were inspired by opponents of the prime minister.
"You can't believe everything you read in the papers," she said. "This is just part of the rumors. There are all sorts of elements challenging the new government..... They are trying to undermine it."