The Latest: Iran-backed militia criticizes Iraq PM’s order

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The Latest on U.S.-Iran tensions (all times local):

2:40 p.m.

One of the largest Iran-backed militias in Iraq is criticizing an order by the prime minister to incorporate the militias into the military and place them under the army’s command.

A statement issued by the Hezbollah Brigades, or Kataeb Hezbollah, did not address whether the group would abide by Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s orders issued this week. It suggested, however, that “criminalizing the mujahedeen” and harming them directly or indirectly may hurt “those elements supporting the security effort.”

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The group, which has close ties to Iran, says the government’s foremost responsibility is to remove what it described as U.S. occupation forces and their business affiliates, which constitute a “major threat” to Iraqi security.

The U.S. maintains military bases and more than 5,000 troops in Iraq.

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2:30 p.m.

Iran’s intelligence minister says any negotiations with the United States would have to be approved by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and would require the lifting of U.S. sanctions.

Khamenei has until now ruled out talks with the United States, saying it cannot be trusted.

On Thursday, the official IRNA news agency quoted Information Minister Mahmoud Alavi as saying “if the supreme leader permits, negotiations between Iran and the United States will be held.” He added, however, that Tehran would not negotiate under pressure.

Tensions have escalated since President Donald Trump withdrew America from Iran’s nuclear deal last year and restored heavy sanctions. The U.S. has recently moved a carrier group, bombers and fighter jets to the Persian Gulf, and last month Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone.

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