Iran Nuclear NewsOfficials: Greece conveying Tehran messages

Officials: Greece conveying Tehran messages

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AP: Iran has turned to Greece to convey messages to the United States regarding its contentious nuclear program and other disputes, officials said Friday. Associated Press

By GEORGE JAHN

Associated Press Writer

VIENNA, Austria (AP) – Iran has turned to Greece to convey messages to the United States regarding its contentious nuclear program and other disputes, officials said Friday.

Their comments suggested Tehran might be willing to engage Washington in an effort to thwart momentum toward a U.N. Security Council resolution that could hit Iran with sanctions over its nuclear defiance.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack on Wednesday confirmed the existence of “ad-hoc channels … going back over the past year” that allow Washington and Tehran to speak through third parties. He did not go into specifics.

But on Friday, a U.S. official familiar with the contacts named Greece as a conduit, saying the country has already served as a liaison.

Athens refused to officially comment, but a senior government figure told AP his country did not deny such activity. Both he and the U.S. official demanded anonymity in exchange for commenting on the sensitive issue and declined to discuss specifics.

The U.S. official said Greece has good connections in Iran.

The two countries have had good relations for years and have signed numerous agreements in the last two decades ranging from energy to fighting terrorism.

Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis has met with both Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Tehran’s chief Iranian nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, in recent weeks.

Two officials contacted by AP – both based in Vienna and familiar with the Iranian talks – said Greece was not alone in being asked to act as an intermediary over the past two years.

The Iranians have made it clear that they want dialogue, and they are using every available means to deliver that message, said a senior diplomat accredited to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The trouble is, the other side is not amenable, the diplomat said.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has denied being asked to mediate after his offer two years ago to do so was rebuffed by the United States. But a U.N. official said ElBaradei has represented the Iranian standpoint to the Americans several times in the past and even mentioned Iran’s interest in bilateral talks this week to Rice.

ElBaradei, traveling in the United States Friday, could not be reached for comment.

Switzerland has formally represented U.S. diplomatic interests in Iran since the two countries severed ties after Iranian radicals stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.

Associated Press writers Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed to this report.

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