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Iran heaps scorn on U.S. claim of Hezbollah in Iraq

  • Story Highlights
  • Iranian spokesman accuses U.S. officials of "false and ridiculous claims"
  • Charge comes in response to questions about U.S. Hezbollah announcement
  • U.S. said Monday a top Hezbollah explosives expert was captured in Iraq
  • U.S. says Iran using Hezbollah as surrogate; Iran denies it
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(CNN) -- An Iranian official slammed what he called "ridiculous and false claims" from U.S. officials about the "arrest of a foreign citizen in Iraq and his relation with Iran."

Iranian spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini, seen in a file photo, accuses U.S. officials of making false claims.

CNN reported in an exclusive on Sunday that a top special operations officer from Lebanon's Iranian-backed militia Hezbollah had been captured in Iraq. The U.S. military later publicly confirmed the report and provided details about the arrest.

Remarks from Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini were reported Tuesday by the Islamic Republic News Agency and the Iranian Student News Agency.

"Unfortunately, U.S. statesmen are in the habit of repeating false and ridiculous claims without presenting any documents," said Hosseini. He did not specify precisely whom or what he meant.

His comments were made after CNN and other media asked him for a reaction to the arrest of Ali Mussa Daqduq.

U.S. officials identified the Hezbollah operative as an explosives expert who played a key role in the January 20 attack that killed five American troops in Karbala, a southern Iraqi city that is one of the most revered to Shiites.

Daqduq was captured in March in the southern city of Basra, where he allegedly was helping train and lead Shiite militias fighting coalition troops.

He pretended to be deaf and mute when captured, and his identity was not known for weeks, the officials said. Once it was uncovered, however, he began to talk, they said, and they now believe he played a crucial role in the attack.

Intelligence officials say Daqduq is one of Hezbollah's top special operations commanders, an expert in the use of roadside bombs. The Americans say he, along with the Iraqi militia commanders he worked with, has admitted working with Iran's elite Quds Force special operations unit.

"The Iranian Quds force is using Lebanese Hezbollah essentially as a proxy, as a surrogate, in Iraq," Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner said on Monday. "The specific motivations behind those operations ... we're still learning about."

Hezbollah fought Israeli troops in a monthlong war in southern Lebanon in 2006. The conflict ended with a U.N.-brokered cease-fire.

U.S. commanders have said for months that Iraqi militants have been receiving weapons and training from members of the Quds Force, an element of Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Washington has demanded Tehran stop the flow of arms and militants across its border, which, along with the diplomatic standoff over Iran's nuclear fuel program, has raised fears of a wider war in the region.

Iran, which has close ties to the Shiite parties that control Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government, has repeatedly denied the allegations. But U.S. intelligence officials said the Quds Force has been backing the creation of Shiite "special groups" modeled on Hezbollah, which holds sway over much of southern Lebanon. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Shirzad Bozorgmehr, Michael Ware and Thomas Evans contributed to this report.

All About HezbollahMiddle East ConflictIranIraqLebanon

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