VIENNA - US and Iranian officials said on Thursday they do not plan to discuss the growing crisis in Iraq on the sidelines of the latest round of nuclear negotiations under way, a rare platform for direct contact between Washington and Tehran.
Sweeping tracts of Iraq's northern and western regions have fallen under the control of an al-Qaida splinter group that has declared it is setting up a caliphate, or medieval-style Islamic religious state, and promised to march on the capital Baghdad.
There has been mounting concern and pressure from the United States, Iran, the United Nations and Iraq's own Shi'ite Muslim clerics on Baghdad to approve a more inclusive government to end the crisis posed by the Sunni Islamist insurgents. But the chorus of concern has done little to end the paralyzing splits between Iraq's main ethnic and sectarian blocs.
The situation in Iraq has alarmed both the United States and Iran, which have not had diplomatic relations since soon after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Tehran.
Iran has offered to cooperate with the United States on stabilizing Iraq, which like Iran has a majority Shi'ite population, but Washington has responded cautiously. Senior Iranian and U.S. officials are currently in Vienna for talks on Tehran's nuclear program but are not planning to discuss Iraq.
A senior US administration official told Reuters on condition of anonymity said Iraq was "not expected to come up."
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