Reuters: Iran and the United States are expected to hold a new round of talks on improving security in Iraq this week, Iranian and Iraqi officials said on Wednesday, but the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad said no date had been set. TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran and the United States are expected to hold a new round of talks on improving security in Iraq this week, Iranian and Iraqi officials said on Wednesday, but the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad said no date had been set.
Easing a diplomatic freeze between Washington and Tehran lasting almost three decades, Iranian, U.S and Iraqi officials held three round of talks in Baghdad last year on ways to help end violence in Iraq.
A meeting scheduled for February was postponed by Iran for what it called technical reasons, prompting Washington to question Tehran’s commitment to dialogue.
The Iraq-hosted talks “will be taking place this week”, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih said in the Iraqi town of Tikrit, but he would not give a date.
Iran’s ISNA news agency earlier said an Iranian delegation had arrived in Baghdad for talks expected to start on Thursday.
“The fourth round of these negotiations will be held in Baghdad on a technical level tomorrow,” ISNA quoted Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, as saying. “On the basis of advancement in the negotiations the meetings would continue.”
But asked whether the report was correct U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker told Reuters: “No”. Speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Tikrit, he said there was “nothing in place”.
The U.S.-Iranian talks on Iraq are one of the few forums in which officials from the two arch-foes have direct contact.
Diplomatic ties between Tehran and Washington, now embroiled in a standoff over Iran’s disputed nuclear plans, were cut shortly after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.
The United States accuses Iran of destabilizing Iraq. Tehran blames the U.S. military presence for the unrest and says it wants a stable and secure neighbor.
The ISNA report came two days after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad returned from an official visit to Baghdad, a trip analysts said was aimed at showing Tehran has close ties with the Iraqi government despite the U.S. allegations.
It was the first trip to Baghdad by a president of Iran, which fought an eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s.
“Iran attaches a great deal of value to the provision of security in Iraq and will do its best in order to achieve this goal,” ISNA quoted Reza Amiri-Moghadam, head of the Iranian delegation, as saying after arriving in Baghdad.
The U.S. military last month said it had proof Iranian-backed Shi’ite Muslim militias in Iraq were increasingly using secret weapons stores to attack U.S. and Iraqi forces. Washington says the militias get weapons, funding and training from Iran. Iran regularly dismisses such charges.
The United States also accuses Iran of seeking to build nuclear bombs. Iran says its nuclear program is a peaceful drive to generate electricity.
(Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Additional reporting by Ross Colvin in Baghdad and Michael Holden in Tikrit; Editing by Ibon Villelabeitia