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Bush: Talks with Iran to show US concerns on Iraq

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Reuters: The United States wants to make clear in talks with Iran that it won’t accept attempts to spread sectarian violence in Iraq, President George W. Bush said on Tuesday. By Tabassum Zakaria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States wants to make clear in talks with Iran that it won’t accept attempts to spread sectarian violence in Iraq, President George W. Bush said on Tuesday.

Bush has said he views Iran as a threat, and the United States is leading diplomatic efforts to isolate its longtime foe over Tehran’s nuclear program.

But the United States has said it is open to talks with Iran on what it sees as Tehran’s meddling in Iraq, while the nuclear issue should be left for international negotiations.

“This is a way for us to make it clear to them that, about what’s right or wrong in their activities inside of Iraq,” Bush told a news conference.

The United States is concerned that Iran is helping inflame sectarian violence in Iraq and that some components of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, used by insurgents in Iraq have been traced to Iran. Tehran denies the charges.

Iraqi political sources said they expected the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, to meet with Iran’s representatives this week.

Bush said he told Khalilzad that, “You make it clear to them that attempts to spread sectarian violence or to maybe move parts that could be used for IEDs is unacceptable to the United States.”

The homemade bombs are being used against U.S. military forces and Iraqi civilians. More than 2,300 U.S. troops and thousands of Iraqi civilians have died in the conflict since the U.S.-led invasion three years ago.

Bush reiterated that negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program should be conducted in an international forum. Western countries believe Tehran is seeking to develop bombs, while Iran says its nuclear ambitions are to generate electricity.

Bush said it was important to show a united front on Iran. “Our job is to make sure that this kind of international will remains strong and united, so that we can solve this issue diplomatically,” he said.

The U.N. Security Council is deadlocked on the wording of a statement pressing Iran to end activities that could lead to its making a nuclear weapon.

Russia and China are insisting that the statement give Tehran more time to comply with the demands of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency in Vienna, and that it keep the focus for now on that agency rather than on the council, which has the power to impose sanctions.

(Additional reporting by Irwin Arieff at the United Nations)

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