News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqUS: Iran-US talks never scheduled

US: Iran-US talks never scheduled

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AP: The United States insisted Thursday that a meeting between Iran and Washington over Iraq’s security was never scheduled, a day after Iran announced that the meeting would take place. The Associated Press

By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA

BAGHDAD (AP) — The United States insisted Thursday that a meeting between Iran and Washington over Iraq’s security was never scheduled, a day after Iran announced that the meeting would take place.

Philip Reeker, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, said that the talks, which would have been the fourth in a series of rare meetings between Tehran and Washington, were never planned.

“If some party thought there was a meeting scheduled, there was a misunderstanding,” he told reporters in a conference call. “We were not expecting any meeting because no meeting was scheduled.”

On Wednesday, Iran’s state news agency, IRNA, reported that an Iranian delegation had arrived in Baghdad for the talks, which it said would take place Thursday.

An Iraqi government official said the Americans declined late Wednesday to meet with the Iranian delegation, and the Iranians would return to Tehran after visiting Shiite Muslim shrines in Baghdad and in the holy city of Karbala. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

On Wednesday, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh said the meeting would begin “this week.”

Reeker said no other dates were scheduled for further talks.

“There was nothing on the schedule … nor is there anything scheduled at this point,” Reeker said.

The U.S. and Iranian ambassadors held the first round of talks in May, a rare meeting between the two countries, which have not had formal relations since the taking of hostages at the U.S. embassy in Tehran after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

The sides met again late last summer at the ambassadorial level, and there has been one other meeting at the expert level.

Another round of expert-level talks had been slated for Feb. 15 but Iraq postponed the discussions without giving a reason.

The U.S. has repeatedly accused Iran of training and funding extremists in Iraq’s Shiite majority who attack American forces and rivals in the nation’s Sunni minority.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the accusations this week, and bashed the U.S. repeatedly, saying its presence in Iraq was a “humiliation” and said it should leave.

However, he left the door open to further discussions with the Americans, saying at a news conference during a landmark trip to Baghdad that he couldn’t predict whether there would be more talks in the future.

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