News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqIran ties role in Iraq talks to U.S. exit

Iran ties role in Iraq talks to U.S. exit

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New York Times: Just days after the Iraq Study Group recommended opening a dialogue with Tehran, Iran’s foreign minister said his country would enter discussions on stabilizing Iraq only if the United States commits to a troop withdrawal. The New York Times

By HASSAN M. FATTAH and MICHAEL R. GORDON
Published: December 10, 2006

MANAMA, Bahrain, Dec. 9 — Just days after the Iraq Study Group recommended opening a dialogue with Tehran, Iran’s foreign minister said his country would enter discussions on stabilizing Iraq only if the United States commits to a troop withdrawal.

Speaking to a security conference in Manama, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran was open to dialogue as long as the United States “changes its attitude,” and he asserted that the Americans were “50 percent to blame” for Iraq’s violence.

In a defiant presentation, he also insisted that the United States stop campaigning against Iran’s nuclear program.

“The Islamic republic of Iran, in case the U.S. changes its attitude, is ready to help the administration to withdraw its troops from Iraq,” Mr. Mottaki said. He then took a triumphant tone, saying, “The time of threats is over; the period of unilateralism is over.”

The event, which drew diplomatic and security officials from throughout the Persian Gulf and the West was organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Iran’s activities in Iraq have been of concern to Washington because American intelligence says Iran is providing explosives and triggering devices and possibly other military support to militant fighters in Iraq.

The bipartisan Iraq Study Group recommended in a report released Wednesday that the United States establish an Iraq International Support Group, which would involve Iraq’s neighbors, including Iran, other Middle East states, the United States and other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, among others.

When asked whether Iran would join such a diplomatic effort, Mr. Mottaki signaled that his nation would only do so as part of an arrangement in which the United States began to withdraw its forces.

“The United States should help itself before anyone else,” he told reporters after his presentation. “The first step is they have to say that they will be ready to leave Iraq.”

American officials at the meeting doubted that Iran could improve the situation in Iraq, dismissing Mr. Mottaki’s speech as posturing to put Iran’s Arab neighbors at ease about the chances of a confrontation between Iran and the United States.

They emphasized that they had made no contact with the Iranians during the meeting.

“They don’t want to appear to be begging for a dialogue when we don’t seem too eager in doing so ourselves,” said one United States official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment. “But they do seem pretty confident that things are going their way.”

Senior American officials were invited to the meeting, and Stephen J. Hadley, President Bush’s national security adviser, had been expected to attend. But he and other top-level officials did not participate.

The administration is conducting a policy review on the issue, and analysts said it would have been awkward for the officials to defend a policy that had not been decided.

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