BAGHDAD, Iraq, AP – The Iranian foreign minister on Friday rejected a U.S. offer of direct talks on Iraq, saying the Americans had raised “other issues.” Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said during a visit to Baghdad that Tehran had decided to hold the talks but changed its mind. He did not say what the other issues were.
“We have considered this and decided to have such a direct talk in the framework of the issue of Iraq,” Mottaki said during a news conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.
“Unfortunately, the American side tried to use this decision as a propaganda and they raised some other issues. They tried to create a negative atmosphere and that is why the decision that was taken for the time being is suspended,” he added.
In a shift from prior policy, the two sides had expressed willingness earlier this year to begin a dialogue focusing on Iraq.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said Sunday that he was ready to talk with the Iranians about their relationship with the neighboring country. And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice went on Arab television Tuesday to say Washington recognizes Iran’s role in Iraq, as long as it is constructive.
U.S. officials have said the talks would be specifically about Iraq and would not include the dispute over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.
Mottaki, who was leading the first high-level Iranian delegation to Baghdad since Iraq’s new government was formed last week, also said a decision on the presence of foreign forces in Iraq should be left up to the Iraqis.
“What we are looking for and may we call it concern for Iranians is security of our country,” he said. “Thus in such a case definitely this presence will affect negatively our country.”