Iranian oil delegation attacked in Baghdad

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 22, 2011 5:31 PM
Iranian oil delegation attacked in Baghdad

By Mitra Amiri

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Gunmen attacked an Iranian oil delegation visiting Baghdad on Wednesday, the Iranian Oil Ministry said.

"The delegation was attacked by terrorists but they are not harmed and have no problems," the ministry's Shana website said.

"The delegation was visiting Iraq to hold talks about exporting fuel to Iraq. They came under gunfire when heading to the Electricity Ministry building."

An Iraqi Interior Ministry source said the convoy was attacked in central Baghdad and two Iraqi guards were wounded.

The head of the Iranian delegation said a contract was signed between the two neighboring countries.

"We signed a contract to export 1.5 million liters of fuel to Iraq," said Alireza Zeyghami, the semi-official Fars news agency reported, without giving further details.

Another Iraqi government source said it was an Iranian technical team visiting Baghdad as part of meetings to discuss border demarcation and investment in joint oilfields.

Iran did not say who was behind the attack and no group has taken responsibility for the attack yet.

Iraq became a base for many Shi'ite and Sunni armed groups after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and all of these groups are active in most areas of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.

Al Qaeda affiliates and many Sunni armed groups, some Shi'ite militias, and Baathists, some of whom ruled Iraq under Saddam Hussein, consider the Iranian government akin to a second occupier of Iraq.

They put Iranian visitors, officials and facilities in Iraq high on their priority lists for attacks. Many of these groups are active in Baghdad.

Iraq is also home to a base of the People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran (PMOI), which the United States, Iraq and Iran consider a terrorist group.

The PMOI has for decades advocated the overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in place since 1979.

The fate of the base at Camp Ashraf, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, has been in question since the U.S. military turned it over to Baghdad in 2009 under a bilateral security agreement.

In April, Iraqi forces moved against the camp in what they said was an attempt to reclaim land and return it to farmers. Some 34 people died in clashes, according to U.N. investigation.

The United States has proposed a temporary relocation of Ashraf's residents within Iraq, pending eventual resettlements in third countries, but the PMOI's umbrella group -- the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) -- rejects this.

(Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed and Suadad al-Salhy in Baghdad and Mitra Amiri in Tehran; Writing by Parisa Hafezi, Editing by Angus MacSwan and Paul Taylor)