Reuters: The United States accused Iran after talks on Tuesday of having increased support for Shi’ite Muslim militias involved in bloodshed in Iraq since the two sides held ground-breaking talks in May. By Mariam Karouny
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – The United States accused Iran after talks on Tuesday of having increased support for Shi’ite Muslim militias involved in bloodshed in Iraq since the two sides held ground-breaking talks in May.
The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, said much of the dialogue at the meeting was not “terribly relevant”, but that Washington, Tehran and Baghdad had agreed to form a security sub-committee to examine ways to reduce violence in Iraq.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said the Baghdad talks had been “very challenging”.
The United States and Shi’ite Muslim Iran held what were widely seen as breakthrough talks in Baghdad on May 28 on the Iraq conflict. The meeting ended a long diplomatic freeze between the two countries.
“The two months since May have not exactly been encouraging,” Crocker said after meeting Iranian ambassador Hassan Kazemi-Qomi for several hours.
“We expressed concerns over Iranian activities and support of violent militia elements through both arming and training,” he said.
“The fact is, and we made it very clear in today’s talks, that over the roughly two months we have actually seen militia- related activities that can be attributed to Iranian support go up and not down.”
No immediate comment was available from the Iranian delegation.
The United States has accused Iran of fomenting violence in Iraq. Iran denies the charge and blames the 2003 U.S.-led invasion for the bloodshed between Iraq’s Shi’ite majority and Sunni Arab minority.
A suicide car bomber killed 26 people and wounded 70 on Tuesday in a crowded market near a maternity hospital in the Shi’ite town of Hilla, 100 km (60 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.
Tuesday’s talks took place less than two months before Crocker and U.S. military commander General David Petraeus have to present a crucial report to the U.S. Congress on Iraq’s political and security progress.
Sectarian violence and worsening chaos in Iraq have pushed the United States and Iran — they have not had diplomatic ties since shortly after Tehran’s 1979 Islamic revolution — to seek common ground.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s fractured coalition government is under pressure from Washington to meet a series of political benchmarks designed to promote national reconciliation before Congress receives the progress report in mid-September.
“I was as clear as I could be with the Iranians this discussion has to be measured in results, not in principles or promises. Thus far the results on the ground are not encouraging,” said Crocker.
Earlier, Maliki urged Washington and Tehran to help Baghdad and warned that insurgent groups like al Qaeda were moving to other countries after they were hit in Iraq.
“We are looking for your support to stabilize Iraq, which does not want to interfere in other countries’ business, nor does it want others to interfere in its internal affairs,” Maliki said when he opened the meeting.
Crocker said both the United States and Iran agreed on the principle of supporting a democratic and stable Iraq but added: “The challenge is applying those principles on the ground.”