- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2007

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq“s foreign minister urged neighbors to prevent “terrorists and killers” from crossing into his country and warned yesterday that the violence in Iraq could spill across its borders.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari spoke at the opening of a daylong conference in Baghdad with officials from Iraq”s neighbors and other Mideast countries, as well as representatives from the United Nations and the Group of Eight industrialized nations.

The first such conference in March saw the first direct U.S.-Iran talks since the war began, focusing on border problems, Iraqi refugees and energy issues.

“Despite our emphasis on national reconciliation at home, we also need to reconcile with our neighborhood, with the international community at large,” Mr. Zebari told the group.

Separately, a U.S. air strike killed a senior al Qaeda militant who masterminded truck bombings on Iraq”s minority Yazidi community last month. That attack killed more than 400 people and was one of the deadliest terrorist strikes of the war, U.S. military officials said.

A U.S. military statement named the mastermind as Abu Mohammad al-Afri, adding he was the al Qaeda “emir,” or prince, in the area where the bombings took place. A U.S. military official said he was an associate of Abu Ayyab Masri, the Egyptian leader of al Qaeda in Iraq.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said that there has been “progress on the security side, particularly in Baghdad” but that U.S. support was still needed.

“When things get better and the security situation gets better, the Iraqi government will be able to talk about a timetable,” he told a press conference.

Security was extraordinarily tight in central Baghdad, the site of the meeting at the Foreign Ministry complex, with security forces blocking two main bridges linking the city”s eastern and western sectors to all but official traffic.

Mr. Zebari said the countries of the region needed to talk about helping the Iraqi government to bring security and stability to Iraq internally, but he added that the country”s neighbors needed to “actively work on controlling the borders and prevent terrorists and killers from infiltrating across into Iraq.”

He did not identify any country by name, but the Iraqi and U.S. governments have accused Syria of allowing foreign fighters to cross into Iraq and Iran of supplying Shi”ite militias with weapons — charges both countries deny. The Iraqi government has also said that many of those who carry out suicide attacks in Iraq come from Saudi Arabia.

Though violence has been slowed by the U.S. buildup in troops from the start of the year, sectarian and insurgent attacks are still common.

Separately, the U.S. command said a Marine died in Iraq”s Anbar province. The noncombat death Friday of the Marine is under investigation, the military said.

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