'Schedule for withdrawal of US troops is logical'

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London, Oct 1: Iran will help the United States stabilise neighbouring Iraq if Washington sets out a timetable for a withdrawal of its troops, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator said in an interview published today.

''If they (the Americans) have a clear definition of a timetable we'll help them materialise it,'' Ali Larijani told Britain's Financial Times newspaper.

Larijani, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, added that Washington's failures in Iraq should deter the Bush administration from considering any further foreign interventions and warned the United States to stay clear of Iran.

He said any attack by the United States on Iran would be like Washington ''sticking its hand into a beehive''. The United States should attack Iran only if it wished ''to receive Israel on a wheelchair,'' he told the newspaper.

Larijani said the Bush administration should heed the strategy of both the Democratic Party and the British government on Iraq. Larijani said the Democrats' call for a timetable for withdrawal ''seems to be logical''.

Britain has pulled its troops out of the southern Iraqi port city of Basra and a rough schedule for drawing down its 5,500 personnel completely from Iraq is gradually emerging.

Larijani said the British were ''more intelligent than the Americans,'' having made the ''necessary adjustments'' to their strategy. Larijani reiterated that Iran was ready to continue cooperating with the U.N. atomic watchdog to defuse a row of its nuclear programme.

On Sep 28, six world powers agreed to delay a vote on tougher U.N. sanctions on Iran until later November at the earliest, to wait for reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency and European negotiator Javier Solana.

The West accuses Iran of seeking to develop atomic weapons under the cover of a civil nuclear programme. Iran denies this, saying it wants to produce power and save more of its oil and gas for the export market.


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