stephen hadley 298 88ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
President George W. Bush's top foreign policy adviser, National Security Adviser Steven Hadley, said Friday that Iran's new willingness to talk about Iraq with the United States probably is a ploy to "divert pressure and divert attention" from growing international suspicion that Teheran wants a nuclear bomb.
The United States accuses Iran of using a civilian nuclear program as a cover to build nuclear weapons, which Iran's Islamic government denies. The UN Security Council is expected to discuss Iran's nuclear program this month, and the United States is pressing for penalties.
The Bush administration views Teheran's acceptance of an American offer to talk about Iraq, made months ago, as an indication that Iran is feeling the international heat, said Hadley.
"What is interesting is that the Iranians would choose now, at this moment, in such a very public way, to embrace this idea and try to expand it to a negotiation about a broader set of issues," Hadley said.
"The concern, therefore, is that it is simply a device by the Iranians to try and divert pressure that they're feeling in New York, to try and drive a wedge between the United States and the other countries with which we are working on the nuclear issue and, if you will, divert pressure and divert attention."
He added: "Obviously, this is something that we and those who are working with us on these issues will not let happen."
Nevertheless, the US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, told The Associated Press on Friday that discussions were under way about when he would meet with Iranian officials about Iraq, probably in Baghdad.
Both the Bush administration and Iran's Islamic government have said the talks would not deal with the standoff over Iran's nuclear activities.
The secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Larijani, offered the direct talks on Thursday. Washington has accused Tehran of meddling in Iraqi politics and of supporting armed militias in Iraq by sending men and weapons across the border, including components for improvised explosive devices, the leading killer of US forces.