Iran Wants British Out of Iraqi City

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) - Iran's foreign minister called for the immediate withdrawal of British forces from the southern Iraqi city of Basra, saying Friday their presence had damaged security.

Manushehr Mottaki issued the call after meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh.

"We believe that the presence of the British forces in Basra has destabilized security in this city and has had some negative effects in the form of threats against southern Iran recently," Mottaki said. "The Islamic Republic of Iran demands an immediate withdrawal of British forces from Basra."

Basra is about 22 miles from the Iranian border.

The call was apparently spurred by recent publicity surrounding video images purportedly showing British soldiers beating Iraqi youths with batons and fists and kicking them after a street confrontation in which the Iraqis threw objects at the soldiers.

The tape was aired in Britain and throughout the Middle East on Sunday and was said to show Jan. 10, 2004, riots in Amarah, about 100 miles from Basra.

Mottaki said the British forces had behaved in an "inhuman and immoral manner that constituted a flagrant violation of human rights" against Iraqi youths.

On Tuesday, protesters marched on the British Consulate in Basra, shouted anti-British slogans and burned a British flag.

Tehran also has accused Britain of involvement in two recent deadly bombings in Ahvaz, capital of oil-rich Khuzestan province on Iran's southern border with Iraq. Britain denied the allegation.

Iran has a Shiite Muslim majority, as does neighboring Iraq, and many in the West have voiced concern that Tehran, run by an Islamic theocracy, wants to have a major influence on decisions made in Baghdad.