Ahmadinejad: Iran is ready for more talks with US over Iraq

"We are prepared to offer any help we can to help preserve unity... and establish peace and security in Iraq."

Ahmadinejad 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Ahmadinejad 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday said Iran was ready to hold more talks with the United States over stabilizing Iraq, the state-run news agency reported. "We are prepared to offer any help we can to help preserve unity ... and establish peace and security in Iraq," the official IRNA news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying Monday. Ahmadinejad made the comment two days after Iranian diplomats met with their five detained countrymen in Iraq for the first time. The Iraqi government, which is backed by the US but closely allied to Iran, has been trying to get the two sides together, hoping some cooperation will reduce violence in the country. The US and Iran held groundbreaking ambassador-level discussions on May 28 in Baghdad to address security in Iraq. But since then, bitterness has mounted, partly due to Teheran's detention of four Iranian-American scholars and activists charged with endangering national security. The US has demanded their release, saying the charges against them are false. Ahmadinejad said Iran was ready for a second round of talks. "We didn't say no to the first round of talks demanded by the Iraqi and US governments. Now, the situation remains the same. Our position remains unchanged," IRNA quoted Ahmadinejad as saying. US authorities have said the five detained Iranians included the operations chief and other members of Iran's elite Quds Force, which is accused of arming and training Iraqi militants. On Saturday, Iran's ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, and his staff made their first visit to the five detainees and repeated calls that they be immediately released. The US military said the visit by the three Iranian diplomats lasted several hours and "took place at an MNF-I (Multi-National Forces - Iraq) detention facility in Iraq." Iran has consistently denied US allegations and insists the five are diplomats in Iraq with permission of the government.