News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqUS denies about-face on Iran

US denies about-face on Iran

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AFP: The United States insisted Monday that planned talks with Iran over Iraqi security did not presage a retreat from a three-decade-old US policy to isolate the Islamic republic.
WASHINGTON, May 14, 2007 (AFP) – The United States insisted Monday that planned talks with Iran over Iraqi security did not presage a retreat from a three-decade-old US policy to isolate the Islamic republic.

The contacts will be “about Iraq and only Iraq,” White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters.

“So it hardly blows anything out of the water,” he said.

“What it does, once again, is reiterate the fact that if … the Iranians do, in fact, want to be playing a constructive role in Iraq, that we’re certainly amenable to having conversations about it.”

The two arch-foes announced Sunday that they would meet to thrash out security in Iran’s war-torn neighbor Iraq, where Washington accuses Tehran of fomenting bloody unrest by Shiite militias and attacks on US troops.

A date and venue for the talks were not announced, but US officials were adamant that they would be confined to Iraq and not cover other policy disputes such as Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“They’re separate issues,” Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday on a stopover in Ireland after a Middle East tour designed to win support from US regional allies to stabilize Iraq and contain Iran.

He said there was no contradiction between his tough talk on Iran’s nuclear program and the upcoming talks over Iraq.

US President George W. Bush “made clear that the conversations in Baghdad are between ambassadors to focus on the situation in Iraq and what we believe is Iran’s interference in the internal affairs of Iraq,” said Cheney.

“A separate proposition is the fact the international community, including the United States, is deeply concerned about Iran’s pursuit of enrichment technology for building nuclear weapons.”

Iran insists that its nuclear drive is for peaceful energy production.

State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the planned discussions with the Iranians were a “logical follow-up” to contacts that took place at a conference on Iraq’s security in Egypt just over a week ago.

“We’ve had that channel for some time and it seems like a good time to activate it,” said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on a trip to Moscow.

She attended the security conference of Iraq’s neighbors in Sharm-el-Sheikh along with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, but the two of them barely exchanged pleasantries.

Casey added the planned talks would be “similar to the kind of discussions that were held between US officials and Iranian officials in Afghanistan.”

On Iraq, the US government would see “whether there is any willingness on the part of the Iranians to, as we continue to stress, have actions match their rhetoric,” he said.

US-Iranian relations have been frozen since 1980, after radical students stormed the US embassy in Tehran in the wake of the country’s Islamic revolution and held 52 diplomats hostage for 444 days.

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