Iraq Dismisses Saudi Worries Over Iran Role

Iraq Dismisses Saudi Worries Over Iran RoleIraq Dismisses Saudi Worries Over Iran Role

Iraq's foreign minister dismissed Saudi concerns that Iran was taking control of his country and said Baghdad sought good relations with both regional powers.

Saudi Arabia fears Tehran's growing influence in Iraq. Riyadh is also concerned that Iran will gain from any nuclear deal it manages to clinch in its ongoing negotiations with the West.

"Iran has supported Iraq but did not send armies to Iraq and did not interfere in Iraq's sovereignty", Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari told Reuters in an interview in Cairo late on Tuesday after attending an Arab League meeting.

"We want relations with Saudi Arabia and with Iran ... Our openness to Saudi Arabia does not mean our relations with other countries will flag ... and this does not mean Iraq is becoming Persian."

Powerful militias have taken charge of the battle against Islamic State militants in Iraq since the Iraqi army deserted en masse last summer. Iran has sent senior military advisers to oversee part of the battle in Tikrit north of Baghdad.

"The situation in Tikrit is a prime example of what we are worried about. Iran is taking over the country," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal claimed last week.

Asked about those comments, Jaafari said the fighting in Tikrit was the result of Iraqi efforts, adding, "It's no secret there are countries supporting us". Iraqi officials say Iran helped organize Shiite volunteers and militia forces last year after Grand Ayatollah Sistani appealed to Iraqis to defend their country following big territorial advances by the so-called Islamic State terrorist group.