Iraq VP: US-Iran talks 'damaging' to country's sovereignty

Sunni leader Tariq al-Hashemi at World Economic Forum discourages "talking on behalf of Iraqi people on their internal and national affairs."

al hashemi 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
al hashemi 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Iraq's Sunni vice president spoke out Sunday against the upcoming US-Iran talks on the situation in his country, saying the dialogue was "damaging to Iraq's sovereignty." Iraq's Shi'ite and Kurdish-dominated government has been pressing for those talks, due to take place on May 28 in Baghdad to help appease spiraling violence in Iraq. But the comments by Tariq al-Hashemi, a leader of the main Sunni bloc in parliament, reflected wide differences among the country's religious and ethnic groups on the role of Shi'ite-dominated Iran. "It's not good to encourage anybody to talk on behalf of the Iraqi people on their internal and national affairs," al-Hashemi told reporters on the last day of an international conference held by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum. Al-Hashemi said he would have preferred that the subject of Iraq's stability was "tackled by Iraqis themselves." "This is really damaging to Iraq's sovereignty," he said. The vice president said he would make sure Iraqis were "aware of the agenda," and "consulted on whatever resolution and agreement" was reached during the bilateral meetings between the US and Iran. Both Iranian and American officials have said that the May 28 talks between the two countries' ambassadors will be limited to the security situation in Baghdad and will not delve into the diplomatic deadlock over Iran's nuclear program. Iran and the US have not had public bilateral meetings since Washington broke off relations with Teheran over the 1979 hostage crisis. Previous encounters have been at multilateral gatherings. The two countries held talks under UN auspices between 2001 and 2003 regarding Afghanistan. The United States has accused Shi'ite-ruled Iran of helping train and arm Shi'ite insurgent groups and some Sunni groups in Iraq. It has specifically accused Iran of helping insurgents obtain explosively formed penetrators - sophisticated bombs that are capable of piercing armored vehicles. The three-day World Economic Forum brought together some 1,000 businessmen and politicians who focused on ways to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Iran's growing influence in the region also figured high at the conference, dominated by Washington's Arab allies who ostracized the Iranian delegation. On Saturday, the head of the Iranian delegation, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, found himself staunchly defending his country and lashing out at its enemies - the United States and Israel - saying they were the real cause behind the Mideast's conflicts. "Iran was always part of the solution to the crisis in the region. We have been in contact with governments in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan," he said during one panel that included Afghanistan's president and a member of the Saudi royal family. He said Iran planned to tell the United States during the upcoming Baghdad meeting that its policies in Iraq were "wrong" and have led to failure. "And we hope that a real and a strong political will appear in the other side to change the policies," Mottaki said in a second panel appearance.