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US Talks With Iran to Focus on Security in Iraq

The State Department says U.S. Ambassador to Baghdad Ryan Crocker will again press Iran to halt destabilizing activities in Iraq when he meets his Iranian counterpart in the Iraqi capital Tuesday. The envoys began their dialogue May 28. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Though Iranian leaders have said on many occasions that they want to see a stable and peaceful Iraq, officials here say those statements are belied by Iranian support for sectarian Iraqi militias and provision of weapons to insurgents.

In a talk with reporters, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States has observed no change in Iranian behavior since the first meeting of the two ambassadors May 28.

Despite the lack of results, McCormack said Bush administration officials decided in favor of having a second meeting though making clear U.S. patience for the process is not open-ended.

"I can't tell you that the Iranians are going to change their behavior," said McCormack. "But we always had in mind that there might be one or more meetings. We're going to look at it on a case-by-case basis. We'll take a look and see if there are any results out of this meeting in terms of changed Iranian behavior and the Secretary will make the call on whether or not another meeting is useful."

McCormack said the format for Tuesday's meeting will be the same as the one in late May, with Ambassador Crocker sitting down with the Iranian envoy in Baghdad Hassan Kazemi Qomi and joined for at least the start of the meeting by senior Iraqi officials.

While diplomats of the two countries have met occasionally at multilateral conferences, the ambassadorial talks are the first direct dialogue between the two countries since the break in diplomatic relations after Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979.

The United States accuses Iran of providing Iraqi insurgents with powerful armor piercing bombs known as EFP's that have killed scores of U.S. soldiers in recent months. The Tehran government denies the charge.

McCormack said the agenda of Tuesday's meeting will be strictly limited to Iraqi security issues, and that Ambassador Crocker will not raise the issue of the four Iranian-American scholars and activists Iran is detaining on charges of endangering its national security.

The Bush administration has said it is ready for an open ended political dialogue with Iran but only if ceases uranium enrichment and returns to negotiations on its nuclear program.