America Puts Talks with Tehran on Hold
Jonathan Steele, The Guardian:
The promised talks between the US and Iran on the situation in Iraq have been put on hold after Iraq's president and other ministers demanded that no negotiations take place over their heads, American officials in Baghdad have disclosed. READ MORE
The talks had been seen as potentially a major breakthrough after more than 25 years during which the two states had no relations after US diplomats were taken hostage in their embassy in Tehran in 1979. Although both sides said the agenda would be confined to Iraq, there were hopes that the talks could lead to a reduction of tension over other disputes, including Iran's nuclear programme.
Tehran is calling for a US withdrawal from Iraq. Washington wants Iran to end its alleged interference in Iraq and the supplies of bomb-making and other material which it says the Iranians are funnelling to insurgents. After protests from Iraqi leaders, the US has accepted Iraq's request that it take part in the talks, but this cannot happen until a new government is formed. There was no truth in speculation that the face-to-face meeting between senior US and Iranian officials could take place as early as this week, a senior US official told the Guardian last night.
"The talks will include an Iraqi representative, since the agenda is about Iraq, and it makes little sense if no new Iraqi government exists," the official said.
More than three months have passed since Iraqis elected a parliament. Its first task is to approve the choice of a prime minister, but the main Kurdish and Sunni parties are refusing to support the renomination of the prime minister, Ibrahim Jaafari.