TEHRAN - Israeli and U.S. agents were behind bombings in Iraq's Shi'ite holy cities of Kerbala and Najaf, Iran's Supreme Leader said Monday, accusing Tehran's arch-foes of trying to rig Iraq's elections for their own ends.
Shi'ite Muslim Iran was quick to condemn Sunday's car bombings in Najaf and Kerbala, which killed 66 people.
"I am sure Israeli and American spy services were behind these events. This is a plot which aims at keeping the Iraqis so busy that they will miss the exceptional chance to participate in the January 30 elections," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, speaking to Mecca pilgrimage organizers on state TV.
"The British and Americans want to hold elections on the surface but in reality they want to bring their own agents to power by holding superficial elections," added the Supreme Leader, who has the last word on all state matters.
Officials from oil-rich Iran have called for fully democratic elections next year in Iraq, where the majority of people are their Shi'ite coreligionists.
President Bush and Iraq's interim Defense Minister Hazim al-Shalaan have accused Iran of aiding al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and former agents of Saddam Hussein in inflaming pre-election violence.
Many analysts believe that the simmering violence in Iraq distracts Washington's gaze from Tehran.
© Reuters 2004