NEWS: Iraqi contracts with Iran and China concern U.S.; Putin pledges to complete Iranian nuclear reactor

Iraqi contracts with Iran and China concern U.S.

Iraq has agreed to award $1.1 billion in contracts to Iranian and Chinese companies to build a pair of enormous power plants, the Iraqi electricity minister said Tuesday. Word of the project prompted serious concerns among American military officials, who fear that Iranian commercial investments can mask military activities at a time of heightened tension with Iran.

The Iraqi electricity minister, Karim Wahid, said that the Iranian project would be built in Sadr City, a Shiite enclave in Baghdad that is controlled by followers of the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr. He added that Iran had also agreed to provide cheap electricity from its own grid to southern Iraq, and to build a large power plant essentially free of charge in an area between the two southern Shiite holy cities of Karbala and Najaf.

The expansion of ties between Iraq and Iran comes as the United States and Iran clash on nuclear issues and about what American officials have repeatedly said is Iranian support for armed groups in Iraq. American officials have charged that Iranians, through the international military wing known as the Quds Force, are particularly active in support of elite elements of the Mahdi Army, a militia largely controlled by Mr. Sadr. [complete article]

Vladimir Putin pledges to complete Iranian nuclear reactor

President Putin forged an alliance with Iran yesterday against any military action by the West and pledged to complete the controversial Iranian nuclear power plant at Bushehr.

A summit of Caspian Sea nations in Tehran agreed to bar foreign states from using their territory for military strikes against a member country. Mr Putin, the first Kremlin leader to visit Iran since the Second World War, insisted that the use of force was unacceptable.

“It is important… that we not only not use any kind of force but also do not even think about the possibility of using force,” he told the leaders of Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. [complete article]

Putin calls war in Iraq ‘pointless’

President Vladimir Putin, in his latest jab at Washington, suggested Thursday that the U.S. military campaign in Iraq was a ”pointless” battle against the Iraqi people, aimed in part at seizing the country’s oil reserves.

Putin has increasingly confronted U.S. foreign policy in recent months, deepening the chill between Washington and Moscow. Among other things, he has questioned U.S. plans for a missile defense system in Europe and the U.S. push for sanctions against Iran for its nuclear programs. [complete article]

Olmert urges Putin to back new Iran sanctions

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met Tuesday with President Vladimir Putin, pressing Moscow to support new sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear activities and urging Russia not to sell arms to Iran or Syria.

Hosting Olmert for a brief, abruptly announced visit, Putin promised to brief the Israeli leader on his talks with Iranian leaders this week and acknowledged his guest’s dismay over Tehran’s nuclear program, which Israel and the United States say is aimed at developing atomic weapons. [complete article]

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