Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday said his country has rejected a U.S. request for cooperation against the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“Right from the start, the United States asked through its ambassador in Iraq whether we could cooperate against Daesh (Arabic acronym for ISIS),” Khamenei said in a statement on his official website.
“I said no, because they have dirty hands,” said Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state in Iran.
“Secretary of State (John Kerry) personally asked (Iranian counterpart) Mohammad Javad Zarif and he rejected the request,” said Khamenei, who was leaving hospital after what doctors said was successful prostate surgery.
Khamenei accused Washington of seeking a “pretext to do in Iraq and Syria what it already does in Pakistan -- bomb anywhere without authorization.”
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Paski acknowledged that U.S. and Iranian officials have discussed the crisis in Iraq on the sidelines of separate negotiations about the Iranian nuclear program in Vienna in June, but she said the United States was not coordinating militarily with Iran.
"I am not going to outline every diplomatic discussion. But we are not and will not coordinate militarily," she said in a statement.
"We will be continuing those talks on the nuclear issue later this week in New York. There may be another opportunity on the margins in the future to discuss Iraq," she said.
Washington had appealed for help from all regional states against the jihadists, who spearheaded a lightning offensive through the Sunni Arab heartland north and west of Baghdad in June and then unleashed a wave of atrocities against ethnic and religious minorities.
But last week U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ruled out cooperation with Tehran citing its “engagement in Syria and elsewhere” and neither the Iranian nor the Syrian governments were invited to an international conference on the ISIS threat that opened in Paris on Monday.
Tehran has been the main regional ally of the Damascus government throughout the three-and-a-half-year uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.
It strongly criticized President Barack Obama’s announcement last Wednesday that he had authorized U.S. air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria without the consent of Damascus.
[With AFP and Reuters]