Mark Tran. Ahmadinejad: Iran ready to fill Iraq power vacuum
The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, today said Tehran was ready to fill an imminent power vacuum in Iraq in remarks that can be seen as a direct challenge to the US.
"The political power of the occupiers is collapsing rapidly," Mr Ahmadinejad said at a press conference in Tehran. "Soon, we will see a huge power vacuum in the region. Of course, we are prepared to fill the gap, with the help of neighbours and regional friends like Saudi Arabia, and with the help of the Iraqi nation."
His remarks will do little to dispel US fears that Iran is seeking to increase its regional influence, taking advantage of Iraq's weakened state.
Mr Ahmadinejad also accused the US of interfering in Iraq's internal affairs after Washington said efforts by the country's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, to reconcile the country's divided Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds were not enough. "They rudely say (the Iraqi) prime minister and the constitution must change," Mr Ahmadinejad said. "Who are you? Who has given you the right?"