Iran's top diplomat on Monday bitingly questioned reported U.S. plans to build up American military forces across Mideast countries after withdrawing from Iraq, calling on Washington to be "more prudent and wise" or risk more unrest in the region.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi also dismissed American concerns about Iranian meddling in Iraq after U.S. troops pull out at the end of December.
Those worries were a main motivation of failed U.S. efforts to leave at least several thousand American troops in Iraq beyond the Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline.
"Iraq does not need anyone to meddle in its internal affairs," Salehi told reporters in Baghdad, where he was meeting with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. "Iraqis know better than anyone else how to run their country."
Asked about U.S. plans to station more troops in the Mideast, Salehi urged the Americans to think again.
"The Americans always have a deficit, unfortunately, in rationality and prudence," he said.
"So what I expect is that it is about time for the Americans to be more provident, to be more prudent and wise in their approach, because the region is really going into troubles, and ... the consequences of these developments are not yet known to anybody. So one has to be cautious. Everybody has to be cautious, including the U.S."
Senior U.S. military officials say Washington is considering putting more forces in Kuwait to bolster its presence in the region after leaving Iraq, but that decision has not yet been made. Negotiations with Iraq's government over leaving thousands of troops behind after the end of the year broke down over legal conditions.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said an estimated 40,000 U.S. troops will be stationed across the Mideast even after the Iraq withdrawal. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has warned Iran that it should not interpret the troop withdrawal as U.S. backtracking on its commitment to Iraq's fledgling democracy.
How much influence Iran may wield in Baghdad in coming years is a top topic of debate across Iraq. As the only two Shiite-led governments across the Sunni-dominated Mideast, the two nations have rebuilt diplomatic and economic ties since the U.S. ousted Saddam Hussein _ an ardent enemy of Iran.
Zebari said Iraq is capable and mature enough to run Iraq without any outside help after the U.S. forces leave.
"No other party can fill the vacuum in Iraq, except the people of Iraq and the government of Iraq," Zebari said.
Salehi later met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and discussed trade issues, including electricity, which Iran is selling to help counter Iraq's epic power shortages. In a statement, al-Maliki said Salehi also agreed to negotiate a settlement on waterway rights, long a sore spot between the two counties.