Iran says ready to help Iraq fight Islamic State

An Iranian Kurdish female member of the Freedom Party of Kurdistan (PAK) keeps a position in Dibis, some 50 kms northwest of Kirkuk, on Sept 15, 2014. Iran said on Monday that it was at Iraq's disposal to help its neighbour battle the Islamic St
An Iranian Kurdish female member of the Freedom Party of Kurdistan (PAK) keeps a position in Dibis, some 50 kms northwest of Kirkuk, on Sept 15, 2014. Iran said on Monday that it was at Iraq's disposal to help its neighbour battle the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremist group, media reported. -- PHOTO: AFP

TEHERAN (AFP) - Iran said on Monday that it was at Iraq's disposal to help its neighbour battle the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremist group, media reported.

Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri made the pledge during talks in Teheran with his Iraqi counterpart, former premier Nuri al-Maliki.

"In the face of terrorism, we must use all means... Iran is ready to place all of its abilities at Iraq's disposal," Jahangiri said, the website of Iranian state broadcaster IRIB reported.

To help counter a lightning ISIS offensive launched on June 9, Iran has supplied Iraqi Kurds with weapons and sent military advisers to Baghdad, while also denying it had deployed ground troops.

However, early last month Iranian television published a rare picture of its elite Quds Force chief, Major General Qassem Suleimani, on an Iraqi battlefield alongside Kurdish peshmerga forces.

And in September, a senior Iranian military official threatened to attack deep inside Iraq if ISIS approached Iraq's border with the Islamic republic.

Teheran, which has refused to join the US-led international coalition against ISIS, advocates regional support for the Iraqi and Syrian governments, and says that air strikes are insufficient.

Jahangiri on Monday dismissed the coalition strikes as a "show" and criticised the US-led campaign for not taking "concrete measures to dry up financial supplies" to the jihadists.

Maliki, meanwhile, said "wider cooperation and coordination are needed to prevent greater dangers" that lie ahead.

Iraq's ex-prime minister, who stepped down in August in favour of Haidar al-Abadi following a protracted political crisis, also met Iran's supreme leader.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praised Maliki's "courage" during eight years in power, and said his decision to step aside helped to prevent instability in Iraq.

In October, Abadi also visited Teheran to discuss Iraq's battle against the ISIS offensive.

The mainly Shi'ite neighbours have been close since the ouster of Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein in the US-led invasion of 2003, with Teheran's role becoming increasingly open in recent years.