Rice: US will cut off Iran's 'malignant' actions

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WASHINGTON, Oct 24 (Reuters) US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today said the United States would cut off Iran's ''malignant'' activities in Iraq and stop its destabilizing behavior across the region.

In prepared testimony for the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Rice said Iran was jeopardizing the security and prosperity of its neighbors by supporting extremist forces across the region.

''Iran is supporting select Shia militants in Iraq who kill innocent Iraqi civilians, Iraqi security personnel and coalition forces,'' Rice said.

''We are determined to cut off Iran's malignant activities in Iraq by apprehending and eliminating Qods Force members and other actors who endanger human life and overall national stability,'' she said.

The United States accuses the elite Qods force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps of training and arming militants in Iraq and of destabilizing the region as a whole.

Washington is considering the imposition of financial restrictions on the Qods force and US officials say it could happen within weeks.

''We will defend ourselves and we will defend Iraqis against Tehran's meddling,'' Rice said.

Iran strongly denies that it has destabilized Iraq and says it is the actions of the United States that have led to chaos in its neighbor.

Rice said Iran, which the United States is also at loggerheads with over its nuclear program, is providing support to the militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian Territories and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

''We are actively working to counter Iran's destabilizing activities across the region,'' she said.

REUTERS SG KN2115

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