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U.S. Willing to Talk With Iran About Iraq

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/iran_us;_ylt=Ao2FuS8nFVrkED5er6rMAvOs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA2Z2szazkxBHNlYwN0bQ-- U.S. Willing to Talk With Iran About Iraq By BARRY
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 16, 2006

      U.S. Willing to Talk With Iran About Iraq

      By BARRY SCHWEID, AP Diplomatic Writer 6 minutes ago

      WASHINGTON - The United States said Thursday it was
      prepared to talk with Iran about Iraq, but said any
      discussions must be restricted to that topic and not
      include other contentious subjects like Tehran's
      suspected nuclear weapons program.

      Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, is
      authorized to talk with Iran about Iraq, much as the
      United States has talked with Iran about issues
      relating to Afghanistan, White House press secretary
      Scott McClellan said.

      "But this is a very narrow mandate dealing
      specifically with issues relating to Iraq," McClellan
      said. U.S. concerns about Iran's nuclear program are
      being dealt with at the United Nations. "That's a
      separate issue from this," McClellan said.

      The White House statement came after Ali Larijani,
      Iran's top nuclear negotiator and secretary of the
      country's Supreme National Security Council, said
      Tehran was ready to open direct talks with the United
      States over Iraq, marking a major shift in Iranian
      foreign policy.

      President Bush has accused Iran of meddling in Iraq's
      affairs and of sending weapons and men to help
      insurgents in Iraq.

      Months ago, however, Bush authorized Zhalilzad to
      speak with Iranian diplomats about Iraq-related
      issues. The ambassador followed up by approaching the
      Iranians in Baghdad. The response was that Iran was
      not interested in a dialogue exclusively about Iraq,
      said a U.S. official who spoke on condition of
      anonymity because he was not authorized to make public

      If Iran is willing to talk about its military support
      for Iraqi militia, including explosives, the United
      States would be interested in pursuing talks, the
      official said.

      But if Iran wants to talk about intervening in the
      Iraqi political process, the Bush administration would
      not be interested, he said.

      In weighing Larijani's initiative, Bush administration
      officials are trying to determine whether the Iranian
      senior nuclear negotiator was speaking for the Iranian

      The next step is for Iranian diplomats in Baghdad to
      indicate what Iran proposes specifically to talk to
      the United States about, the official said.

      Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recently said Iran's
      Revolutionary Guards had been assisting the smuggling
      of explosives and bomb-making material into Iraq.
      Tehran has denied the U.S. charges, saying the
      occupying forces were responsible for the instability
      in Iraq.

      Larijani also said any talks between the U.S. and Iran
      would deal only with Iraqi issues. But it's the first
      time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that Iran had
      officially called for dialogue with the United States,
      which it has repeatedly condemned as "the Great

      "To resolve Iraqi issues and help establishment of an
      independent and free government in Iraq, we agree to
      (talks with the United States)," Larijani said after a
      closed meeting of the parliament Thursday.

      The proposal to hold direct talks on Iraq came in
      response to a request a day earlier from senior Iraqi
      Shiite leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim.

      Al-Hakim has close ties to Iran, and heads one of the
      main Shiite parties in Iraq, the Supreme Council for
      the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

      "I demand the leadership in Iran open a clear dialogue
      with America about Iraq," al-Hakim said. "It is in the
      interests of the Iraqi people that such dialogue is
      opened and to find an understanding on various

      Larijani said Iran will officially name negotiators
      for direct talks with the United States but declined
      to give further details.

      "These talks will merely be about resolving Iraqi
      issues," he told the parliament, without singling out
      any issues.

      Predominantly Shiite Iran also has expressed grave
      concerns about the prospect of more violence in Iraq,
      where bloody sectarian fighting and reprisal killings
      have broken out in recent weeks.

      The United States broke off diplomatic relations with
      Iran in 1979 after the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was
      seized by students to protest Washington's refusal to
      hand over Iran's former monarch to Iran for trial.
      Militant students held 52 Americans hostage for 444

      Tehran-Washington relations began thawing after the
      1997 election of former President Mohammad Khatami,
      who called for cultural and athletic exchanges to help
      bring down the wall of mistrust between both

      But relations worsened after President Bush named Iran
      as part of an "axis of evil" and after the election of
      hard-line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and
      growing differences over Iran's nuclear activities.

      The U.S. accuses Iran of using its civilian nuclear
      program as a cover to build atomic weapons, but Tehran
      denies this, saying its nuclear program is geared
      merely toward generating electricity, not a bomb.
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