Iraq's Kurds fire back in dispute with Iran over Mossad

AFP , Saturday 12 May 2012

The government of Iraq's Kurdish region says Iran is attempting to draw it into the fight between Tehran and Tel Aviv through accusations that Arbil is harbouring Israeli spies who work against Iran

The government of Iraq's Kurdish region fired back on Saturday over allegations by Iranian diplomats and officials that Kurdistan was playing host to Israeli intelligence.

Kurdish authorities described the claims, made in previous weeks, as "untrue", after Iran's consul in regional capital Arbil said Israeli spies were using Kurdistan as a base to work against neighbouring Iran.

"This is not the first time that Iranian officials are saying this without presenting evidence or reasons," the Kurdish regional government said in a statement.

"The government is not able to be quiet faced with these accusations anymore, so we confirm to the public there are no centres or offices of Israel in Kurdistan, and we deny this accusation."

The statement continued: "It is untrue."

"This is an attempt to draw Kurdistan into the fight between Israel and Iran, and we do not want to be part of this," it said.

On May 5, Tehran's consul in Arbil, Azim Hosseini, said Iran's security agencies had found evidence that "Israelis are in Kurdistan, and they are working against Iran."

"Israelis are working under different passports and names and banners," he told Safil, a Kurdish weekly published in Arbil.

And on April 21, Iranian MP Esmaeel Kosari told Al-Alam, an Iran-based Arabic-language news channel, that Kurdistan and Azerbaijan "should know that the presence of the Zionist regime on their soil will be harmful to them."

"The neighbouring nations should not allow this regime to have any activities against Iran."

Iraq has no relations with Israel, and the country was an implacable foe of the Jewish state under the regime of former dictator Saddam Hussein, who was overthrown by the US-led invasion in 2003.

Kurdistan does have a warmer history with Israel, however. Many of the current crop of Kurdish leaders have visited the Jewish state in past decades.

Jews lived in Kurdistan for centuries, working as traders, farmers and artisans.

But the creation of Israel and the rise of Arab nationalism in the mid-20th century dramatically altered the situation, spurring most of Kurdistan's Jews to leave.

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