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US, Iranian Diplomats to Meet in Baghdad


The U.S. and Iranian governments said Thursday diplomats of the two countries will meet May 28 in Baghdad to discuss issues related to the conflict in Iraq. Contacts between the two countries are infrequent but not unprecedented. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Officials here say the talks will be conducted, on the U.S. side, by ambassador to Baghdad Ryan Crocker, and will be a test of Iran's professed interest in seeing a stable and peaceful Iraq.

The United States and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since 1979. But the two governments have had periodic contacts, and the Bush administration has been saying since 2005 that it was open to having talks on Iraq through the so-called Baghdad channel.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki first disclosed the date for the meeting in comments Thursday during a visit to Islamabad, saying the main problem in Iraq is the presence of U.S.-led foreign troops.

In a talk with reporters here, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States will press Iran for action to back up its stated interest in a stable, secure and prosperous Iraqi neighbor.

"We are asking them to follow through those words with action," he said. "We would hope that they would take specific steps to help insure Iraq's greater stability and security. We obviously have concerns about Iranian support for these EFD [explosive formed device] networks, their support for militias which are stoking sectarian violence. So certainly those will be issues at the top of our agenda."

McCormack's reference was to insurgent networks in Iraq, which have been using advanced armor piercing explosives against coalition forces.

U.S. military officials believe the EFD charges originate in Iran, and that Iranian agents may be training Iraqi insurgents in their use.

Iran has not said who will represent Tehran in the talks with Ambassador Crocker, though that country does have a diplomatic mission and an ambassador in Baghdad.

Foreign Minister Mottaki said Iraqi officials would also attend the first meeting with Crocker, and that it would aim to set an agenda for further discussions.

Spokesman McCormack said he would not rule out further talks in the Baghdad channel but that there are no plans for a meeting between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Mottaki.

Rice has said the United State is ready for an open-ended dialogue with Iran going beyond the issue of Iraq, but not until Tehran heeds U.N. Security Council demands to stop enriching uranium.

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