Daily Telegraph: America and Iran exchanged diplomatic blows yesterday in the first substantial talks between the two countries on Iraq’s security situation. The Daily Telegraph
By Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent
America and Iran exchanged diplomatic blows yesterday in the first substantial talks between the two countries on Iraq’s security situation.
A US general set the tone for the encounter by declaring, hours before it opened, that the Islamic Republic bore responsibility for three-quarters of American troop casualties last month.
Even so US representatives and their Iranian counterparts went ahead, together with Iraqi representatives, with a special committee focussed on security. Officials below the rank of ambassador participated in the meeting, held in the office of Iraq’s Shia prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.
A US spokesman described the discussions in Baghdad as frank and serious, diplomatic code for an exchange of accusations that stopped short of a row. But the two nations agreed to continue the dialogue in future meetings.
“We could call the talks frank and serious, and focussed as agreed on security problems in Iraq,” the US embassy spokesman Philip Reeker said. “They agreed to continue the discussions at a date to be established through regular diplomatic channels.”
Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Labid Abawi, issued a more optimistic summary of a “positive and good” encounter.
Lt General Raymond Odierno, the operations commander of US forces in Iraq, yesterday accused Iran of filling a void created by American military success against terrorism.
Shia Muslim militias trained and armed by Iran were responsible for 73 per cent of attacks that killed or wounded American forces last month in Baghdad, he said. The number of attacks staged by Iran’s allies is running at double the rate recorded six months ago.
Later in the day, the US president, George W Bush, said he would pursue efforts to isolate Iran because the government in Teheran is “not a force for good” in the world.