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Iraq Transition

Iraqi insurgents being trained in Iran, U.S. says

Story Highlights

U.S.: Iraqi insurgents being trained in Iran to assemble Iranian weapons
• Army tours in Iraq extended from a year to 15 months
• Red Cross report says conditions in Iraq "unbearable and unacceptable"
• U.S.-led coalition forces: Suspected regional terrorist leader arrested
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi insurgents are being trained in Iran to assemble weapons and Iranian-made weapons are still turning up in Iraq, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

The statement comes two months after the United States said it had asked Tehran to stop the flow of weapons into Iraq.

Coalition forces found a cache of Iranian rockets and grenade launchers in Baghdad on Tuesday, spokesman U.S. Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said Wednesday.

"The death and violence in Iraq are bad enough without this outside interference," Caldwell said. "Iran and all of Iraq's neighbors really need to respect Iraq's sovereignty and allow the people of this country the time and the space to choose their own future."

Caldwell showed reporters photographs on Wednesday that he said were found in the weapons cache. In February, Caldwell said the United States had asked Iran to stop the transfer of weapons.

President Bush has said a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard called the Quds Force is behind the supply of Iranian weapons. Tehran has denied interfering in Iraq.

Caldwell also said Wednesday that two militants who were recently detained said they had received training in Syria, another nation the Bush administration has accused of meddling in the region.

Caldwell offered no other details about the report.

He accused the Quds Force of supplying Iraqi insurgents with armor-piercing roadside bombs, called explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs. Caldwell said extremists are getting training on how to "assemble and employ EFPs."

"We know that they are being in fact manufactured and smuggled into this country, and we know that training does go on in Iran for people to learn how to assemble them and how to employ them," Caldwell said. "We know that training has gone on as recently as this past month from detainees' debriefs."

He said Shiite extremists are being trained inside Iran and said the use of such weapons requires "very skilled training." Much of the violence in Iraq is blamed on fighting between Shiite and Sunni insurgents. An overwhelming number of Iranians are Shiite.

"There has been training on specialized weapons that are used here in Iraq. And then we do know they receive, also, training on ... what we call a more complex kind of attack, where we see multiple types of engagements being used from an explosion to small-arms fire, to being done in multiple places," Caldwell said.

Munitions from Iran were found in a black Mercedes sedan in Baghdad's Jihad neighborhood on Tuesday after a tip from a civilian, he said. An Iranian-made rocket was found in the back seat and Iranian weapons were found in the trunk and around a nearby house, Caldwell said.

In an unusual development, he said coalition forces have found evidence that Sunni insurgents in Iraq received help from intelligence services in the Shiite nation of Iran.

"We have in fact found some cases recently where Iranian intelligence services have provided to some Sunni insurgent groups, some support," Caldwell said. "We do continue to see the Iranian intelligence services being active here in Iraq in terms of both providing funding and providing weapons and munitions."

Pentagon extends Army tours

The Pentagon announced Wednesday that the standard yearlong tour of duty for U.S. Army soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan has been extended to 15 months to meet targets for troop buildup. (Full story)

The tour extension, announced by Defense Secreatry Robert Gates, is intended to make tours more predictable and avoid the situation of giving troops little advance notice they will have to stay.

Red Cross report blasts Iraq conditions

Military operations in Iraq are forcing thousands of Iraqis from their homes, while the U.S.-led coalition or Iraq are holding tens of thousands of people against their will, according to an International Committee of the Red Cross report released Wednesday.

"The suffering that Iraqi men, women and children are enduring today is unbearable and unacceptable," said the ICRC's director of operations, Pierre Krohenbuhl. "Their lives and dignity are continuously under threat." (Watch how Iraqi students must live and study under the threat of attacks Video)

The report "expresses alarm about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Iraq and calls for urgent action to better protect civilians against the continuing violence."

The report was issued ahead of next week's international conference in Geneva and also points to the "critical condition" of Iraq's infrastructure due to "lack of maintenance and because security constraints have impeded repair work."

The ICRC "deplores the daily acts of violence such as shootings, bombings, abductions, murders and military operations that directly target Iraqi civilians in clear violation of international humanitarian law and other applicable legal standards."

Other developments

  • Two U.S. soldiers were killed in Baghdad in the past 24 hours, the U.S. military said Wednesday. One soldier was killed in a roadside bombing near a patrol in eastern Baghdad on Wednesday and the other died in an attack against a military unit in southern Baghdad on Tuesday. The deaths brought the total of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war to 3,294, including seven U.S. civilian military employees.
  • Coalition forces early Wednesday said they arrested a figure who is suspected to be the top terrorist leader of the Arab Jabour region, south of Baghdad. "Coalition forces captured five suspected terrorists, including the suspected al Qaeda in Iraq security emir of Arab Jabour during an operation Wednesday morning," the military said in a statement. Officials did not identify the suspected terrorist leader.
  • CNN's Jamie McIntyre contributed to this report.

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    The U.S.military said this photograph shows rocket-propelled grenade rounds from Iran found in Baghdad.

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