TEHRAN -- Iran said yesterday that it was downgrading its representation at a ministerial meeting of Iraq's neighbors in Jordan this week, apparently to protest accusations by Jordan's monarch that Tehran was trying to influence the upcoming Iraqi elections.
King Abdullah alleged last month that more than 1 million Iranians had entered Iraq, many to vote in the Jan. 30 elections, and said they were being encouraged by the Iranian government.
Iran rejected Abdullah's comments as an insult to the Iraqi people and said the remarks showed the Jordanian king's ''ignorance" of the situation in Iraq.
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi of Iran will not attend the Amman meeting, but will send a lower-level official, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said.
Jordan has extended invitations to the foreign ministers of Iraq's neighbors -- Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Representatives from Iraq, Egypt, and Bahrain also were invited, the Jordanian Foreign Ministry said last week.
Last month, Iran hosted a meeting of interior ministers and security officials from Iraq's neighbors and Egypt to discuss the infiltration of terrorists into Iraq.
The Jordanian interior minister attended the meeting, which ended with a commitment to boost cooperation on border control and to combat the transfer of money that finances terrorist activities.
Most of the Arab countries neighboring Iraq have Sunni majority populations and fear that a Shi'ite-dominated regime in Iraq would both embolden their own Shi'ite communities and move Iraq closer to mainly Shi'ite Iran or to adopting its Islamic state.
Shi'ites make up the majority of the population in Iraq, and Shi'ite candidates are expected to fare well in the elections, which will select a constitutional assembly. Although Shi'ites have long constituted the majority in Iraq, they were held down by deposed dictator Saddam Hussein, who favored the minority Sunnis.