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Iraqi paper claims Iranians fighting there

BAGHDAD, May 10 (UPI) -- An Iraqi daily is claiming that a "staggeringly high" proportion of foreign jihadis arrested in Iraq are Iranian.

Iran Focus reported on May 9 that al-Taji, a newspaper with close connections to the Kurdistan Democratic Party Massoud Barzani, noted that 1,577 of the 1,972 jihadis arrested since last May were Iranians.

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Al-Taji, quoting a commander of the Iraqi border guard speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the other foreign militants arrested included nine Nigerians, four Indians, 364 Afghanis, two Pakistanis and one Russian citizen from Dagestan in the northern Caucasus.

The Bush administration has consistently maintained that Iran is covertly sending fighters into neighboring Iraq, a charge that Iran has repeatedly denied.

Iran Focus is linked to opponents of the Tehran regime.

In an effort to restore diplomatic relations frayed in the aftermath of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, Iran has appointed an ambassador to Iraq for the first time since the conflict.

The Islamic Republic News Agency reported that Hasan Kazemi Qomi presented his credentials to Iraqi president Jalal Talabani in the capital Baghdad on Tuesday.

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