Gulf & Middle East
Talks with US only for Iraq's sake: Iran
May 16, 2007 - 6:31:14 PM

Tehran, May 16 - Iran's scheduled talks with the US are just for the sake of Iraq and not for improving ties with Washington, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday.

The two political arch-foes have agreed to have direct talks in Baghdad but the date has not yet been fixed. The US would be represented by its ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, but Iran has not named any official yet.

It is, however, expected that Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, who has already held brief talks with Crocker, would represent the Islamic state.

State television quoted Khamenei as saying in a speech in Mashad, northeastern Iran that the talks would in the first place be an opportunity to tell the US that it has nothing to do in Iraq and should withdraw to bring peace and stability to the war-torn country.

Iran's willingness to talk to the US has caused harsh protests within hardline circles who consider any approach towards Washington a sign of weakness.

Khamenei pointed out that there would be no talks outside the Iraq context until the US changes its hegemonic policies in the Middle East in general and its hostile approach towards Iran in particular.

The decision by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government to talk with the US came following an official request by the US through the Swiss embassy in Tehran, which represents Washington's interests in the Islamic Republic.

Tehran has several times insisted that direct talks with the US had been accepted because the Iraqi government and Shia groups had asked Iran for such an initiative.

Iran and the US have not had any diplomatic ties for almost 27 years, and while Washington accuses Iran of sponsoring terrorism and pursuing a secret nuclear programme, Tehran calls the US the 'Great Satan' and the enemy of Islam and Muslims worldwide.

Several efforts to break the deadlock have so far failed, and political hostilities have continued. However, it is thought that the Iraq conflict could force the two countries to start direct talks.

During the Iraq conference held in Egypt earlier this month, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki held some minor talks with his US counterpart Condoleezza Rice, but both sides refrained from real negotiations.

Deputy Foreign Minister Araqchi said that the dilemma in Iraq could not be solved by staged talks just for the sake of appearances, but that talks should have an explicit aim of the restoration of security and stability to Iraq.

Therefore, he added, the main basis for such talks should be the US adopting a realistic approach in general and taking responsibility for having itself caused the crisis in Iraq.

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