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Iran, US Talk in Baghdad

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    Iran, US to hold first talks in 27 years From correspondents in Washington May 28, 2007 Agence France-Presse
    Message 1 of 1 , May 31, 2007
      Iran, US to hold first talks in 27 years
      From correspondents in Washington
      May 28, 2007
      Agence France-Presse

      WASHINGTON and Tehran open their first substantial talks in 27 years
      in Baghdad today, with both countries setting modest goals and
      limiting discussions to ways to quell the chaos in Iraq.

      US ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker is set to meet Iranian ambassador
      Hassan Kazemi in the highest-level official bilateral talks between
      the two sides since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

      The US and Iran broke off diplomatic relations in 1980 after radical
      students stormed the US embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans
      hostage for 444 days.

      US State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the talks would be held
      "in Baghdad, at an Iraqi government facility," giving no further
      details for security reasons.

      An Iraqi representative will join them at the start of the talks,
      which will then continue behind closed doors. There will be no
      official statement, but Mr Crocker said there could be a press
      conference at the US embassy after the event.

      Bad relations don't serve Iraq

      The meeting follows a brief encounter between US Secretary of State
      Condoleezza Rice and her Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, on
      May 4 at a conference on Iraq held at the Egyptian resort of Sharm
      El-Sheikh, Egypt.

      "Bad relations between the two countries does not serve Iraq, and Iraq
      has paid the price for the tension between the two countries," said
      Ali al-Dabbagh, spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

      "We don't want Iraq to be an arena for fighting between the two
      sides," Mr Dabbagh said on Wednesday.

      Washington accuses Tehran of fomenting violence by arming and training
      radical Shiite militias. Tehran in turn says peace will not be
      restored in Iraq until US forces leave.

      Nuclear program off limits

      Washington also accuses Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, demands
      Tehran freeze its uranium enrichment operations, and has not ruled out
      military strikes to thwart Iran's nuclear drive. Iran says its atomic
      drive is peaceful and that it has every right to the full fuel cycle.

      Iran's nuclear program however is not on the agenda for today's talks.

      "These talks will not affect our nuclear issue, because we are not
      interested," Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, deputy head of the Iran's
      National Security Council, told ISNA news agency today. "The talks
      will solely focus on the stability and security of Iraq as it has been
      requested by Iraqi people and government."

      Mr Casey confirmed only Iraq would be on the agenda.

      "It's not a forum for discussion about other events."

      Spy networks accusation

      Iran today accused Washington of running spy networks aimed at
      carrying out "sabotage" operations in its sensitive border provinces
      in western, south-western and central Iran, according to Iran's state
      media, possibly darkening the atmosphere in the talks.

      Iran's intelligence ministry said yesterday it had broken up spy
      networks led by coalition forces in Iraq, but the comments were the
      first time the US has been directly accused.

      The new allegations come at a time when Iran is also charging the US
      of seeking to carry out a "Velvet Revolution" by peacefully toppling
      the Islamic authorities through various initiatives.

      Limited results expected

      Despite the strong symbolism, the Baghdad meeting will likely yield
      limited results, said Anthony Cordesman, with the Washington-based
      Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think-tank.

      "Iran's position on meeting with the US to talk about Iraq has been
      hostile beyond the usual standards of pre-conference posturing and
      leverage," said Mr Cordesman.

      Mr Cordesman said the recent arrest in Iran of at least three
      Iranian-American researchers accused of working to undermine the
      Islamic regime were "a grim warning that dialogue with this Iranian
      government may have very little near-term benefits".

      US forces are also holding five Iranians arrested on January 11 in the
      northern Iraqi city of Arbil. Iran says the men are diplomats, but US
      officials suspect they are involved in supplying advanced roadside
      bombs to Iraqi insurgents to use against US forces.

      Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said last week Tehran
      would merely use the Baghdad talks to remind Washington of its
      "occupiers' duty" in Iraq.



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