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Iraq Transition

Al-Maliki: Iraq won't be battleground for U.S., Iran

Story Highlights

• Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki says Iran attacks U.S. forces in Iraq
• Al-Maliki urges Iran, U.S. not to conduct proxy war in Iraq
• Attacks in Baghdad, Muqtadya kill 14 and wound dozens
• Officials say U.S. probes possible Iranian ties in Karbala compound attack
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's prime minister said Wednesday he's sure Iran is behind some attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and he won't allow his country to be a battleground for the two nations.

"We have told the Iranians and the Americans, 'We know that you have a problem with each other, but we are asking you, please solve your problems outside Iraq,' " Nuri al-Maliki told CNN.

"We will not accept Iran to use Iraq to attack the American forces," al-Maliki said Wednesday in an exclusive interview with CNN. (Read more of al-Maliki interview)

"We don't want the American forces to take Iraq as a field to attack Iran or Syria," he added.

Asked about the role of Iran in Iraq, al-Maliki said he was confident that Iranian influence was behind attacks on U.S. forces. "It exists, and I assure you it exists," he said.

Iranian-U.S. tensions have been ratcheted up recently, with two U.S. officials theorizing about the possibility that Iran was involved in a January 20 attack that killed five U.S. soldiers.

Two officials from separate U.S. government agencies said Tuesday the Pentagon is investigating whether the attack on a military compound in Karbala was carried out by Iranians or Iranian-trained operatives.

"People are looking at it seriously," one of the officials said, adding that the Iranian connection was a leading theory in the investigation.

The second official said: "We believe it's possible the executors of the attack were Iranian or Iranian-trained."

The five soldiers were abducted and killed in the sophisticated attack by men wearing American-style uniforms, according to U.S. military reports. (Watch how attackers got into the compound Video)

Both officials stressed the Iranian-involvement theory is only a preliminary view, and there is no conclusion. They agreed this possibility is under consideration because of the sophistication of the attack and the level of coordination.

"This was beyond what we have seen militias or foreign fighters do," the second official said.

Al-Maliki said the Americans were basing their hunches about Iranian activities in Iraq on intelligence they've amassed.

Some Iraqis speculate that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps carried out the attack in retaliation for the January 11 capture by U.S. forces of five of its members in Irbil, according to a article published Tuesday. (Read the articleexternal link)

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps has a reputation for taking harsh and unrelenting revenge on its enemies, the article says. The five Iranians remain in U.S. custody.

Suggestions of Iranian involvement in the Karbala attack are part of a larger confrontation between Iran and the United States.

Washington accuses Tehran of fomenting terror attacks worldwide and pursuing a nuclear program that could lead to the development of weaponry. Iran has denied those assertions.

The Bush administration has authorized U.S. forces to kill or capture Iranian agents plotting attacks in Iraq, a U.S. national security official said last week. The policy, approved by President Bush in the last couple of months, is aimed at Iranian agents planning attacks with Iraqi militiamen, the official said.

Bush has said that he has no problem with the policy, if it protects U.S. soldiers. (Full story)

"If Iran escalates its military actions in Iraq to the detriment of our troops and/or innocent Iraqi people, we will respond firmly," Bush said Monday on National Public Radio.

A top U.S. general in Iraq said Tuesday that Iran is supplying Iraqi militias with weapons, including Katyusha rockets and rocket-propelled grenades, USA Today reported.

Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno told the newspaper that the military could trace some weapons back to Iran by their serial numbers.

The Associated Press reported last week that a second U.S. aircraft carrier is on its way to the Persian Gulf, according to U.S. officials. The officials told the AP that the USS John C. Stennis, due to arrive in Mideast waters within weeks, is intended as a warning to Iran.

CNN's Aneesh Raman, who has reported from Tehran over the past year, said Tuesday that Iranians are taking the threats seriously.

"The Iranian people are increasingly concerned that in the coming months, military action of some kind will either come into Iran, or Iran will be dragged into a broader struggle," Raman said. "Every time I went [to Iran], there was increased fear, a sense that war clouds were looming." (Watch what could happen if the U.S. opts to strike Iran Video)

Car blast kills 5 in Baghdad market

Bomb and mortar attacks Wednesday across the Iraqi capital and northward in Diyala province left 14 dead and dozens wounded, officials said.

In the deadliest attack, five people were killed and 12 others wounded when a car bomb exploded Wednesday afternoon near the Shorja market in central Baghdad, a Baghdad police official said.

Separately, four people died and 20 others were wounded when mortar rounds slammed into northern Baghdad's Adhamiya Sunni neighborhood.

Also in northern Baghdad, a car bomb blast killed two people and wounded nine in the Bab Muadham commercial area.

In western Baghdad's Mamoun neighborhood, two people were killed and three others were wounded when a car bomb detonated near a communication tower.

In southeastern Baghdad, one Iraqi was killed and six others were wounded when a car bomb exploded on a street, a Baghdad police official said.

North of the capital in Muqtadya, at least 12 Iraqi soldiers were wounded when a suicide bomber detonated a fuel truck near an Iraqi army base, a Diyala Joint Coordination Center official said. Muqtadya is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of Baquba.

A U.S. soldier was killed in combat Wednesday in Iraq's Salaheddin province, the military said. The slain soldier was from Task Force Lightning. Another soldier was wounded in the incident.

On Tuesday, two U.S. soldiers and a Marine died from "wounds sustained due to enemy action" while in Anbar province, the volatile area west of Baghdad, the military said.

Since the start of the Iraq war, 3,078 members of the U.S. military have died. Seven civilian contractors of the Defense Department also have been killed.

CNN's Barbara Starr, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Michael Ware contributed to this report.

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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An Iraqi soldier guards the government compound in Karbala where disguised attackers struck January 20.


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