Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of Iraq told the Obama administration this
month that Iran wants direct talks with the US on its nuclear program,
according to a report in The New York Times on Friday that cited Western officials. Maliki said that Iraq was prepared to facilitate the negotiations.
sent the message to the US ambassador in Baghdad earlier this month and
he suggested that he was relaying a message from Iranian officials who
said that Iran's incoming President Hassan Rouhani, "would be serious
about any discussions with the US," according to the report.
Iraqi leader indicated that he had been in touch with "confidants" of
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei but some Western officials
remained uncertain whether the idea was "mainly Maliki's initiative,"
report quoted US State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell who said
that the US was "open to direct talks with Iran in order to resolve the
international community's concerns about Iran's nuclear program."
At the beginning of July members of the US House of Representatives, in a letter to the White House
called on President Barack Obama to continue implementing a strict
sanctions regimen on the Islamic Republic over its disputed nuclear
bipartisan group of 43 congressmen, including the Republican chairman
of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and its Democratic ranking
member, called the election of Hassan Rouhani unfair and unfree by
international standards– and likely a ruse by Iran to buy time for
progress on its nuclear program.
In June, Iran said it would press ahead with its uranium enrichment program
signaling no change of course despite Rouhani's presidential win.
Abbasi-Davani, head of the Islamic Republic's Atomic Energy
Organization, said production of nuclear fuel would "continue in line
with our declared goals. The enrichment linked to fuel production will
also not change."
Michael Wilner and Reuters contributed to this report.