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U.S. Voices Concern Over Iranian Influence In Iraq

30 July 2004 -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said during a visit to Baghdad today that the United States in concerned over Iranian attempts to exert influence in neighboring Iraq.

Speaking during a surprise visit to the Iraqi capital on his tour of the Middle East, Powell said Iran could instead play a role in stabilizing Iraq.

"With respect to Iran -- Iran has the potential of playing a helpful role [in Iraq], but we are uneasy about some of the actions that Iran has been taking in the south, the influence that they are trying to gain in the south, and we hope that the Iranian authorities will realize that it is in their interest to have a stable Iraq as a neighbor."

Powell also pledged to speed up funding for reconstruction in Iraq and said the United States remains committed to helping the Iraqi people.

Powell is the most senior U.S. official to visit Iraq since U.S. forces handed over power to the interim Iraqi government on 28 June.