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Iran denies Panetta's weapons smuggling charge

Secretary Panetta must have touched a nerve when he announced that Iran is smuggling weapons into Iraq that local insurgents are using to kill and hurt American troops. There's every reason to believe Panetta, and reporters travelling with him even got a brief from Army bomb experts who showed evidence with telltale signs of its Iranian origins. But for whatever reason, Iranian officials this week have gone on a denial campaign -- the question is, who can they actually convince? With sympathetic audiences, who already hate the U.S., why bother?

Anyway, two official reports denounced Panetta's accusations: Iran's Press TV quotes a foreign ministry spokesman who says the idea that Iran supplies Iraqi insurgents is "a big lie," and has its foreign minister saying this: “The international community and world public opinion are well aware that Iran as a responsible country has always behaved in a way [that has seen] its duties carried out well.” So there you have it.

The second Iranian report this week went as far as to "quote" an American official: According to a report in the "Voice of Justice," Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Thomas Nides "admitted that the US has no 'strong and tangible evidence' to prove the claim. Nides, according to the Iranian reporter, said this: "We are sure that Iran helps the militants, but our knowledge is based on information that cannot be presented or released."

Military.com's Bryant Jordan asked for confirmation on Nides' comments, and got a very different account: "This is complete fiction," said Chris Hensman, a State Department spokesman in Baghdad. "The interview never happened. He gave a formal speech with no references to Iran at the opening and took no Q&A after the remarks."

Not surprising -- the question is, which audience is Iran sensitive about believing the American condemnations of its support for Iraqi militants?

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