BAGHDAD (AP) – Iran has postponed the next session of expert-level talks with U.S. diplomats, the U.S. embassy and Iraqi government officials said on Thursday.
The talks, slated for Friday, would have been the fourth in a series that is designed to deal with Iraqi security.
Iraqi officials serve as the go-between in arranging the talks and sit in on the discussions.
“We have been informed by the government of Iraq that Iran has again asked to postpone trilateral talks regarding security in Iraq. We have been saying for weeks that we are ready to sit down for talks. It is increasingly clear that Iran is not,” said American Embassy spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo.
The canceled Friday session had only been announced by officials in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s office on Wednesday.
The same officials and an on at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad first announced the cancellation but gave no reason. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
The United States has accused Iran of training and supplying Shiite militia fighters with weapons and explosives in Iraq. Iran denies the accusations. Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the outgoing second-in-command in Iraq, said it was important to maintain pressure on Iran.
“I think Iran wants a weak Iraq and it’s in their best interest. We’ve got to make sure they aren’t here trying to do that,” Odierno told reporters. He spoke on the sidelines of a ceremony at which he handed over the charge of the U.S. military’s day-to-day activities in Iraq to Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin.
U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker told The Associated Press earlier this month that he was open to renewing the three-way dialogue with Iranian and Iraqi officials, and that he expected the latest round would begin with a lower-level meeting of security officials.
A meeting last May 28 between Crocker and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, broke a 27-year diplomatic freeze between the two countries. The two met again late last summer and there has been one other meeting at the expert level.