Iran ready to talk to the US about Iraq

An Iranian official says Tehran is ready to open direct talks with the US over Iraq, marking a major shift in Iranian foreign policy a day after an Iraqi leader called for such talks.

Iran ready to talk to the US about Iraq
Ali Larijani, Iran's leading nuclear negotiator and secretary of the country's Supreme National Security Council, on Thursday said any talks between the US and Iran would deal only with Iraqi issues. Any direct dialogue between Tehran and Washington - were it to happen - could also be a beginning for negotiations between the two foes over Iran's controversial nuclear programme.

There was no immediate response from Washington, which has repeatedly accused Iran of meddling in Iraq's affairs and of sending weapons and men to help fighters there. Larijani said after a closed meeting of the parliament: "To resolve Iraqi issues and help the establishment of an independent and free government in Iraq, we agree to [talks with the United States]." Larijani said Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Iraq, had repeatedly invited Iran for talks on Iraq.

Milestone

His statement marked the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that Iran had officially called for dialogue with the US, which it has repeatedly condemned as "the Great Satan". The proposal to hold direct talks on Iraq came in response to a request from Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, a senior Iraqi Shia leader, who on Wednesday called for Iran-US talks on Iraq.

Iran is accused of helping
militias in Iraq

Al-Hakim has close ties with Iran and leads one of the main Shia parties in Iraq, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). "I demand the leadership in Iran to 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 issues."

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

"These talks will merely be about resolving Iraqi issues," he told the parliament.

It was not immediately clear which Iraqi issues Larijani wanted to address. But the US has repeatedly accused Iran of meddling in Iraq's affairs, and even sending weapons and fighters to help the fighting.

Role in Iraq

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

Iran has also 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 US broke diplomatic relations with Iran in 1979 after the US embassy in Tehran was seized by students to protest against Washington's refusal to hand over Iran's former monarch to Iran for trial. Students held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

Tehran-Washington relations began thawing after the 1997 election of Mohammad Khatami as president. He called for cultural and athletic exchanges to help bring down the wall of mistrust between the countries.

But relations worsened after George Bush, the US president, named Iran as part of an "axis of evil" and after the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president last year and growing differences over Iran's nuclear activities.

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

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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