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Tehran Mulls Future Of U.S. Occupation Of Iraq

Washington, 2 February 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Iranian officials this week touted the success of Iraq's 30 January national elections and predicted the end of the U.S. occupation, as state media warned that the United States plans to remain in Iraq.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said during a 2 February visit to the southern city of Bushehr that the unexpectedly high turnout in the Iraqi election demonstrates that Iraqis abhor the occupation of their country, IRNA reported.

Meanwhile, speaker of parliament Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel told an open legislative session on 2 February that the high turnout is a sign that Iraqis are determined to regain control of their destinies, IRNA reported. It is also a sign that they hate despotism, he said. The election results are not known yet, he said, but the Iraqi people are the real winners.

Government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh said following the vote that Iran will respect the outcome of the elections and will cooperate with whatever government the Iraqis choose, Islamic Republic of Iran News Network reported. "We hope that these elections will pave the way for ending the occupation and bring about full security in Iraq as a result," he said.

However, an Iranian state radio commentary on 1 February struck a different tone, saying that Washington plans to militarily dominate Iraq. "They, in fact, want to take Iraq's political and economic affairs into their hands under the name of training Iraqi forces," it said, adding that occupation forces want to stay in Iraq and "intend to keep away from urban and rural areas."

Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani said in Tehran on 31 January that "the fact that the people of Iraq have gone to the ballot boxes to decide their own fate is the result of efforts by the Iraqi clergy and sources of emulation, led by Ayatollah [Ali] al-Sistani," Islamic Republic of Iran News Network reported. The most important postelection issue, Hashemi-Rafsanjani added, is the prevention of vote rigging.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said in a 31 January message to his Iraqi counterpart, Hoshyar al-Zebari, that the elections were an important step towardscreating a democracy, ISNA reported. Kharrazi congratulated the Iraqi people and government, and he indicated optimism regarding the withdrawal of foreign forces, regional security and stability, and further bilateral cooperation.