Iraq says Iran proposes Baghdad for nuclear talks

Iran proposal indicates cooling of relations with Turkey over Turkish anti-Assad position.

Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki  370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BAGHDAD - Iran has proposed holding the next round of talks with six world powers over its disputed nuclear program next week in Iraq instead of Turkey, Iraq's foreign minister said on Wednesday.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Saturday the April 13-14 negotiations with Iran would be held in Istanbul, the first such meeting since January 2011 when the two sides failed even to agree on an agenda.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari told Reuters the proposal for talks in Baghdad came from an Iranian delegation visiting on Tuesday and he would meet with ambassadors from the five Western powers plus Germany on Tehran's plan.
"The proposal came from them. We received a delegation from Iran... Today we are inviting G5 plus one ambassadors to hand over a letter about the proposal," Zebari said.
Iraq's Shi'ite-led government is closely aligned with Iran in a region where Sunni Arab Gulf powers are jockeying for influence with Shi'ite power Tehran.
Earlier in the week, a senior Iranian figure spoke out against Turkey hosting the talks as once warm Iranian-Turkish relations have cooled in the past year over the Turkish position against Syrian President Bashar Assad, Iran's close Arab ally.
The statement was one of the latest anti-Turkish broadside from politicians in Tehran, Fars news agency reported late on Monday.
Turkey, a former friend of Assad, has demanded he halt a bloody crackdown on his opponents and step down.
"Given the fact that our friends in Turkey have failed to fulfill some of our agreements, the talks... had better be held in another friendly country," said former presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaie, Fars News reported.
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Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat
 Last month Turkey had offered Istanbul as the venue for talks expected to take place on April 13, a proposal which appeared to gather momentum last week when Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Istanbul would be "the best option."
Turkey has repeatedly backed Iran's right to develop peaceful nuclear technology. The United States and its allies suspect Tehran of covertly working on nuclear weapons and have imposed tough new sanctions on its financial and energy sectors.
Tehran, which says its nuclear activities are purely peaceful, has agreed to renewed talks with the five permanent members of the Security Council - the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain - and Germany this month.