Report: Iraq's Maliki says Iran wants nuke talks with US

Iraqi PM informs Obama administration that Rouhani serious about direct talks over nuclear program.

Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki  370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
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.
Maliki 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.
The 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," the Times reported.
The 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 program.
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The 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.
Fereydoun 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.