AP: The United States has no imminent plans to resume talks with Iran about Iraq, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq said Monday, signaling the latest impact of Tehran's postelection turmoil on U.S.-Iranian relations.
The Associated Press
By KIM GAMEL
BAGHDAD (AP) — The United States has no imminent plans to resume talks with Iran about Iraq, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq said Monday, signaling the latest impact of Tehran's postelection turmoil on U.S.-Iranian relations.
Ambassador Christopher Hill, who assumed his post in April, told The Associated Press that Iran is still trying to exert a "malevolent influence" over its neighboring country but said he was hopeful Iraqis aren't responding.
The U.S. military accuses Iran of backing Shiite militias in Iraq with training and weapons. Tehran denies the allegations.
The United States has held limited meetings in past years with the Iranians to discuss Iraq's security, but none so far this year.
Hill said it's too soon to discuss more talks because of the political turmoil in Iran.
The country has been wracked with protests following the June 12 presidential vote in which incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner. The opposition is challenging the vote, claiming fraud.
The government has reacted with a crackdown on protests and waves of arrests, leading to widespread international criticism.
"We don't have any plans at this point to be negotiating with the Iranians, and our sense is that the Iranians frankly speaking have other things on their mind now," he said during an interview at the new U.S. Embassy in the heavily protected Green Zone in central Baghdad.
Hill also called on Iran to respect Iraq's sovereignty.
"The U.S. has no interest in negotiating with Iran over the future of Iraq. I think an issue pertaining to Iraq's future needs to be handled between the Iraqis and the Iranians," he said. "We support a good relationship with Iran and Iraq but it needs to be a relationship based on mutual respect."
He said he was concerned about military reports showing that illegal arms continue to flow into Iraq from Iran, although he could not say if they had been reduced or increased amid the recent security gains.
"Certainly we've seen examples of this which are not consistent with a good neighbor policy," he said.
The Iraqi government is also very concerned about this and I think the Iraqi government is taking a very tough minded view of some of these insurgent groups that the Iranians have clearly been supporting over the last year or so," he added.
Hill said during confirmation hearings in March that he would be prepared to restart U.S.-Iraqi talks with Iran if the administration decided it could be helpful.
Obama had said upon coming to office that he wanted to give Iran a way to lessen its international isolation by opening up to the United States after nearly three decades of diplomatic estrangement.
But new relations have been called into question by the dispute over Iran's presidential vote.