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Mullen tells Arabs Iran is not behind their turmoil.

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Iran is not behind the popular protests surging across the Arab world, US Admiral Mike Mullen, America's senior-most military officer, told jittery Arabs Monday in Qatar.

"Iran, I still believe, is a country that continues to foment instability in the region, take advantage of every opportunity," said Mullen, who is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But, "from my perspective, that has not been the principal focus of what happened in Egypt or what happened in Bahrain or any of these other countries," he said.

"Those are by and large internal issues, as opposed to issues fomented by some external forces," Mullen said, although "there's always concerns in this region with Iran and certainly the US has them as well as all the regional players."

Mullen's understated treatment of the issue stood in stark contrast with remarks made the very same day by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenehi, who charged that the United States was trying to "hijack" the Arab revolutions.

His purpose appeared to be to frighten Arab revolutionaries out of having contact with any Americans by scaring them into thinking they would be duped or kidnapped.

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Mullen, who began a Persian Gulf tour Sunday in Saudi Arabia and then went to Qatar, could travel to Bahrain, where the US Fifth Fleet is headquartered, people traveling with him said.

The US Navy has said the demonstrations have not disrupted American operations. "As far as Fifth Fleet operations, no, the demonstrations have not had any impact here. We're continuing to conduct our regular business out here," a spokesman for the Fifth Fleet told Agence France Presse Monday.

Mullen is to also travel to the United Arab Emirates, Djibouti, possibly Bahrain, and then to Kuwait to participate in ceremonies marking the 20th anniversary of the liberation of that country from Iraqi occupation in 1991.
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Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Geographic Code:7BAHR
Date:Feb 25, 2011
Words:309
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