Iraq to Israel: 'You won't use our airspace to strike Iran'
BAGHDAD: Baghdad has warned Israel that it would respond to any attempts by the Jewish state to use Iraqi airspace for a strike against Iran’s controversial nuclear program, a top Iraqi minister told AFP.
The remarks from Hussein Shahristani, deputy prime minister responsible for energy affairs, mark the first time a senior Iraqi official has publicly warned Israel against entering its airspace — the most direct route — to hit targets in Iran.
Shahristani also said that Iraq had received assurances from Washington that the United States would not use its airspace to attack Iran, which Western powers believe is trying to develop a nuclear weapon. Tehran has repeatedly denied the claim.
“The (Americans) have assured us that they will never violate Iraqi airspace or Iraqi sovereignty by using our airspace to attack any of our neighbors,” Shahristani said in an interview in his office in Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone.
“We have also warned Israel that if they violate Iraqi airspace, they will have to bear the consequences.” The minister said that the issue had been discussed in Iraq’s national security council, and the warning had been passed to Israel “through countries that they have relations with.”
When asked how Iraq would react to any such Israeli attempt to target Iran’s nuclear program, Shahristani said: “Obviously, Iraq wouldn’t be disclosing its reaction, to allow Israel to take that into account.” “Iraq has its own national interest,” he said. “Power generation is very critical ... and there is no way we can fuel our new power stations, that are being constructed and will be ready before the end of the year, without having gas from Iran.
“We expect the US, as our ally, to understand the need of the Iraqi people for power generation," he added. "If any friend can make the gas available from other sources, by all means, we would be very happy to consider that option. But, given our geographical location, the only gas available to Iraq is from Iran now, and we have explained this to our American friends.”
by Prashant RAO
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