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U.S.: violence in Iraq down, Iran still figures in insurgency
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08:16, November 19, 2007

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The U.S. military said Sunday the violence in Iraq has dropped considerably since summer and Iran's role still counts in aiding insurgency despite that it appears to be halting weapon flow.

Violence has dropped by 55 percent here since the U.S. strengthened the crackdown on terror attacks and insurgency since June, U.S. military spokesman Rear Adm. Gregory Smith said at a press briefing.

Civilian casualties were down 60 percent nationwide, and 75 percent in Baghdad, he said.

Besides the surge of some 30,000 U.S. troops, the uprising by Sunni tribes against al-Qaida and the ceasefire announced in August by Moqtada al-Sadr, a leading anti-U.S. Shiite cleric, are also attributed to the recent lull.

The U.S. accuses Iran of backing Iraqi Shiite insurgents, including Sadr's militia, with arms, training and money, which Tehran denies.

Some U.S. officials appeared to have toned down the accusation in recent remarks, saying the weapon flow to Iraq was declining.

Ali al-Dabbagh, an Iraqi government spokesman, said Saturday that Iran is showing restraint in sending people and weapons to destabilize Iraq.

Nevertheless, the U.S. concern over Iran's role remains pretty strong.

"Iran has been the principal supplier of weapons, arms, training and funding of many of the rogue militia groups," Smith said.

"That has not changed in terms of the environment we are seeing on the ground. There is still large amount of Iranian weapons existing in Iraq," he said.

"It's unclear to us what role the Iranians might have had in these developments, if any," said Philip Reeker, a U.S. embassy official said in the same press briefing.

Reeker also said that he expected that U.S. and Iran could hold a new round of talks over Iraq in the near future, echoing a similar opinion by U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker.

The U.S. and Iranian diplomats have met twice this year in Baghdad on Iraq's security issue.

Source: Xinhua

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