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US ambassador says more talks possible with Iran on Iraq


ImageVOA News: U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker says the door is open to further discussions with Iran on the situation in Iraq. VOA's Paula Wolfson has details from Washington.

VOA News

By Paula Wolfson

ImageU.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker says the door is open to further discussions with Iran on the situation in Iraq. VOA's Paula Wolfson has details from Washington.

Ambassador Crocker says he is willing to hold more talks with Iranian officials under certain conditions.

"It is important to have talks for a purpose, not just for the sake of having another session," said Ambassador Crocker. "So we will need to choose the timing when we think it will improve the situation and actually make some progress."

During an appearance on CNN's Late Edition program, Crocker said Iranian influence in Iraq is declining, in large part because of a series of successes against militias backed by Tehran.

"What we are seeing is a significant decrease in extremist militia capability because the Iraqi security forces are literally taking them off the streets," he said.

The ambassador was then asked about a report in The New Yorker Magazine that details what the author describes as a major escalation of U.S. covert operations in Iran.

Crocker acknowledged he had not read the report, but he denied one accusation in the article – that U.S. forces are crossing the Iraq-Iran border, seizing wanted members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraqi soil for questioning.

"I can tell you flatly that U.S. forces are not operating across the Iraqi border into Iran in the south or anywhere else," said Crocker.

The reporter behind the magazine article, Seymour Hersh, told CNN he was not surprised by the ambassador's comments.  He said diplomats may know little about the scope of the program, which he said was approved by the U.S. Congress at the request of the president.

"I think this is another example of putting an awful lot of pressure on the Iranian government," said Seymour Hersh.

Meanwhile, there has been no official response from the Bush administration to the release of a new study by U.S. Army historians on mistakes made during the early phases of the Iraq war.

The lengthy report cites a lack of planning and vision by American military and civilian leaders in the period from May 2003 to January 2005. It concludes they were too focused on toppling Saddam Hussein, and did not look ahead to what might happen in Iraq in the days that followed.

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