Iran says ready to provide Iraq with arms to fight 'terrorism'

By Gabriela Baczynska

By Gabriela Baczynska

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Tehran has not received a request from Baghdad to supply it with weapons but is ready to do so if asked, Iran's deputy foreign minister said on Tuesday during a visit to Moscow.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that Tehran had no plans to send troops to back government forces fighting the Sunni "terrorists" of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who have captured swathes of Iraq as well as Syria.

"We have no troops or armed forces on Iraqi soil now," he told a news conference in comments translated into Russian. "We have no plans to send troops to Iraq.

"Iraq has came up with no request to get arms from us. But if it does, then, within the framework of international law and rules as well as bilateral agreements, the arms that Iraq needs to conduct an effective fight against terrorism will be provided," he said.

Both the United States and Shi'ite Iran oppose the militants' onslaught. But Abdollahian accused Washington of being behind the recent developments.

"What has happened in Iraq recently is clearly a result of foreign meddling, a plan by the United States. The Americans want to create a second Ukraine in Iraq," he said, referring to the conflict between government forces and pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine.

The United States has dispatched military advisers to Iraq to support Baghdad and Russia delivered five Sukhoi Su-25 fighter jets late on Saturday.

Speaking after talks in Moscow with Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who is also the Middle East envoy of President Vladimir Putin, Abdollahian said Tehran's current support to Baghdad was limited to "consultations".

He ruled out any cooperation with Washington on quelling the ISIL, which over the weekend declared a "caliphate" to rule over all the world's Muslims, saying it was using the group to try achieve its goals in the Middle East.

"The ISIL is a product of U.S. policies in Syria," he said of the conflict that started in early 2011. Moscow and Teheran support President Bashar al-Assad against Washington and the West, which have sided with opposition and rebel groups seeking to oust him.

Russia on Monday warned the United States against bolstering support for moderate opposition in Syria, saying any support would in fact end up in the hands of the ISIL, an al Qaeda splinter group.

When asked to comment about the prospects for the Kurdish minority seeking to carve out an independent state for itself amid the turbulence in Iraq, he said: "We are strongly against the partition of Iraq."

Abdollahian said he did not expect the situation in Iraq and criticism of the United States to negatively affect international talks on Iran's nuclear program.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Sonya Hepinstall)