Friday, April 07, 2006

US-Iran Talks Over Iraq Put on Hold

Barry Schweid, The Washington Post:
The Bush administration remains interested in limited talks with Iran on its activities in Iraq, but no meeting is scheduled, a State Department spokesman said Friday.

The talks would be held in Baghdad, where U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad was authorized months ago by President Bush to meet with Iranian diplomats on a limited basis.

"We don't have a timeline for such a meeting," spokesman Sean McCormack said. "As for whether there will be a meeting, we will see." READ MORE

The U.S. official added: "We've had concerns about the Iranians' behavior in Iraq. We are calling for good, neighborly, transparent relations between Iraq and Iran."

Excluded from the potential discussion are Iran's nuclear activities, which the Bush administration and European allies say is designed to manufacture nuclear weapons.

McCormack suggested Iran was showing interest in talks with the United States because "they find themselves under the scrutiny and the harsh spotlight of the international community concerning their nuclear activities."

The United States and the Europeans have brought their case against Iran to the United Nations, but there is no decision on whether to try to impose economic or other penalties on Iran to try to force a resumption of negotiations with Britain, France and Germany.

In Vienna, Austria, diplomatic sources reported the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, would go to Tehran next week to try to wrest concessions.

In about two weeks he is due to report to the Security Council on whether Iran is heeding a call by the council to reimpose a freeze on enrichment of uranium and fully open its nuclear program to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

McCormack said the administration hoped ElBaradei would reinforce a message to the Iranian government that it must come into compliance with its international obligations, including curbs on proliferating nuclear technology.