'Iran ready to consider high level talks with US over Iraq'

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki's statements came a day after the American and Iranian ambassadors to Iraq meet in Baghdad.

zebari 298 88 (photo credit: AP)
zebari 298 88
(photo credit: AP)
Iran is ready to consider high-level talks with the United States regarding security in Iraq, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported Wednesday. "The issue of negotiations between Iran and the US about Iraq at the level of deputy foreign ministers is reviewable," the agency quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki as saying after a cabinet meeting in Teheran. Mottaki's statement came a day after the American and Iranian ambassadors to Iraq met in Baghdad and agreed to set up a security subcommittee to carry forward talks on restoring stability in the war-torn nation. Mottaki said that "Necessary studies will be undertaken" in case a "formal request" is made by the US for new, higher level talks on Iraq. Lawmaker Kazem Jalali, the spokesman for Iran's parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, also supported the idea of beefing up discussions. "If the conclusions on the two rounds of talks are positive, it will be possible to upgrade (the meetings) to the level of deputy foreign minister, or even to the ministerial-level," Jalali told The Associated Press. "Iran and the US are key players in Iraq," he said. "If the talks go well, it can be determining for Iraq." Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said after the talks in Baghdad that experts would meet as early as Wednesday to work out the structure and mechanism of the committee. "We hope that the next round of talks will be on a higher level if progress is made," he said at a news conference after the talks. But underscoring the rising tensions between the two foes, US Ambassador Ryan Crocker reiterated accusations that Iran is fueling the violence in Iraq by arming and training Shi'ite militias. He warned Tuesday that no progress could be made unless Iranian actions change on the ground. For his part, Iranian Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi countered that Teheran was helping Iraq deal with the security situation but that Iraqis were "victimized by terror and the presence of foreign forces" on their territory. He said Tuesday his delegation also demanded the release of five Iranians detained by US forces in Iraq. The United States has said the five were linked to Iran's elite Quds Force, which it has accused of arming and training Iraqi militants. Iran says the five are diplomats who were legally in Iraq. Iraq's fragile government has been pressing for more contacts between the two nations with the greatest influence over its future, and Iran has repeatedly signaled its willingness to sit down. Iran holds considerable sway in Iraq, where the majority of the population is also Shi'ite Muslim and where many Shi'ite political parties are seen as having ties to Teheran. The United States broke off diplomatic ties with the Islamic republic following the 1979 storming of the US Embassy in Teheran and the holding of American hostages for 444 days.