Thursday, March 16, 2006

US Not Seeking Dialogue with Iran

ABC News (au):
The United States has indicated that it was not seeking dialogue with Iran in proposing talks on Iraq, but rather trying to get it to stop meddling in the affairs of its neighbour. "I don't know about opening up a dialogue. I don't think that's a correct characterisation of what we previously said," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

"Our ambassador is authorised to talk with leaders in Iran. But it's to reiterate to them and express our concerns we have about their involvement inside Iraq," he stressed.

Earlier he stressed that: "the nuclear issue is being discussed at the United Nations among diplomats of the Security Council. That's a separate issue." READ MORE

Asked whether negotiations on Iraq would be a step forward in US-Iran relations, Mr McClellan replied: "Our views and concerns regarding the regime in Iran are very clear, and we have a number of concerns about the regime. The other issues are separate from this issue."

Tehran said on Thursday it was ready to negotiate with Washington to help stabilise neighbouring Iraq.

McClellan said the US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, was "authorised to speak with Iranians about issues specifically related to Iraq."

"Remember we previously have had discussions with Iran about issues relating to Afghanistan, but this is a very narrow mandate dealing specifically with issues relating to Iraq," the spokesman said.

If US-Iranian negotiations were to occur, it would be their first direct talks since Washington broke ties with Tehran in April 1980 after the Islamic revolution that ousted the US-backed shah and the taking of US hostages.

The last time the sides sat at the same table was in 2001 in a room with seven other countries, including Russia, for discussions over Afghanistan.