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Iran cleric says U.S. paying financial price for wars

Iran's former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani speaks during Friday prayers in Tehran in this August 22, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

TEHRAN (Reuters) - An influential Iranian cleric said on Friday the financial crisis gripping the United States was the price Washington paid for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Islamic Republic, Washington’s avowed foe, has long called for U.S. troops to leave the region and blamed them for sectarian violence, particularly in Iraq. The United States says Iran has been stoking tensions in Iraq, which Tehran denies.

“How much the Americans have paid and been degraded in their attack against Iraq and Afghanistan is unbelievable. They have paid tremendously in terms of life, honour and financial involvement,” former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said.

Rafsanjani, a mid-ranking cleric who now heads a powerful clerical body, was speaking to worshippers during Friday prayers in a sermon broadcast on state radio.

“If the economic crisis in America is becoming a serious threat for the West and the industrial world, one of the underlying reasons is the high costs which the Americans have been forced to spend in the region in the past seven or eight years,” Rafsanjani said.

U.S. lawmakers are discussing a $700 billion bailout package to rescue the faltering U.S. financial system. Approval of the package has been held up by bickering between Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

The United States accuses Iran of secretly developing a nuclear weapon and has led international sanctions against Tehran. The Iranians deny the accusation and say they seek nuclear technology only to generate power.