US buildup near Iraq lacks prudence: Iran’s foreign minister

By LARA JAKES | AP

BAGHDAD: Iran’s top diplomat on Monday bitingly questioned reported US plans to build up American military forces across Middle East countries after withdrawing from Iraq, calling on Washington to be “more prudent and wise” or risk more unrest in the region.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi also dismissed American concerns about Iranian meddling in Iraq after US troops pull out at the end of December.

Those worries were a main motivation of failed US efforts to leave at least several thousand American troops in Iraq beyond the Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline.

“Iraq does not need anyone to meddle in its internal affairs,” Salehi told reporters in Baghdad, where he was meeting with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. “Iraqis know better than anyone else how to run their country.” Asked about US plans to station more troops in the Mideast, Salehi urged the Americans to think again.

“The Americans always have a deficit, unfortunately, in rationality and prudence,” he said.

“So what I expect is that it is about time for the Americans to be more provident, to be more prudent and wise in their approach, because the region is really going into troubles, and … the consequences of these developments are not yet known to anybody. So one has to be cautious. Everybody has to be cautious, including the US” Senior US military officials say Washington is considering putting more forces in Kuwait to bolster its presence in the region after leaving Iraq, but that decision has not yet been made. Negotiations with Iraq’s government over leaving thousands of troops behind after the end of the year broke down over legal conditions.

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said an estimated 40,000 US troops will be stationed across the Middle East even after the Iraq withdrawal. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has warned Iran that it should not interpret the troop withdrawal as US backtracking on its commitment to Iraq’s fledgling democracy.

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