Oct. 5, 2006. 01:00 AM

ON THE IRAQ-IRAN BORDER—Since late August, British commandos in the deserts of far southeastern Iraq have been testing one of the most serious charges levelled by the United States against Iran: that Iran is secretly supplying weapons, parts, funding and training for attacks on U.S.-led forces in Iraq.

A few hundred British troops living out of nothing more than their cut-down Land Rovers and light armoured vehicles have taken to the desert for what their officers say will be months of patrols aimed at finding the illicit weapons trafficking from Iran, or any sign of it.

There's just one thing.

"I suspect there's nothing out there," the commander, Lt.-Col. David Labouchere, said last month, speaking at an overnight camp near the border. "And I intend to prove it."

Other senior British military leaders spoke just as explicitly. Britain, whose forces have had responsibility for security in southeastern Iraq since the war began in 2003, has found nothing to support the U.S. contention that Iran is providing weapons and training in Iraq, they said.

"I have not myself seen any evidence — and I don't think any evidence exists — of government-supported or instigated" armed support on Iran's part in Iraq, British Defence Secretary Des Browne said in an interview in Baghdad in August.

"It's a question of intelligence versus evidence," Labouchere's commander, Brig. James Everard, said last month at his base in Iraq's southern city of Basra. "One hears word of mouth, but one has to see it with one's own eyes. These are serious consequences, aren't they?"

They are. The allegation that Iran or its agents provide military support for Iraqi Shiite Muslim militias and other armed groups in Iraq's remote Maysan province is one of the most contentious issues raising tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Most gravely, U.S. generals and diplomats accuse Iran of providing infrared triggers for special explosives that can pierce heavy armour.

Evidence of Iranian armed intervention in Iraq is "irrefutable," one U.S. commander in Iraq, Brig.-Gen. Michael Barbero, told Pentagon reporters in August. U.S. military spokesmen in Iraq renew the allegation almost weekly.

But British Maj. Dominic Roberts said: "We have found no credible evidence to suggest there is weapons smuggling across the border."

To determine the truth of the charges, British troops gave up their base near Amarah, Maysan's capital. Abu Naji had been pounded almost every night for months by rocket and mortar rounds. Soldiers would slip out of base to try to find the attackers, only to return frustrated, Labouchere said.

So the British forces packed up and left Abu Naji on Aug. 24. They spread out over the deserts of Maysan, where most of the 1 million victims of the eight-year Iraq-Iran war fell. Attackers lobbed the odd rocket round at them during the first week, but nothing since.

At the least, Labouchere said, "I am satisfied our presence will reduce" the dangers for the rest of Iraq.

Ultimately, however, the British can do little more than demonstrate that the borders are closed, Labouchere said. Save for that, he said, they find themselves trying "to prove a negative."

You know, there are so many lies coming out of BushBlairBot© that the more boring of the insane ones make me yawn.