MANAMA, (Reuters) – Iran will only hold direct talks with the United States on Iraq if Washington announces plans to pull its troops out, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Saturday.
Mottaki was responding to the U.S. Iraq Study Group report, which recommended Washington should directly engage with Iran and Syria over Iraq, where violence is threatening to turn into civil war.
On the question of direct talks between Iran and the United States, “the first and most essential step … is the United States announce they have decided to withdraw from Iraq”, Mottaki told reporters at a security conference in Bahrain. He said that if the United States did announce a withdrawal “Iran is ready to help the administration to withdraw its troops from Iraq”.
But Iran did not “see such political will yet in the United States”.
Washington blames Iran and Syria for stirring up conflict in Iraq nearly four years after the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has suggested Tehran would demand some payback in return for any help on Iraq, probably over its nuclear programme, which the West fears could include nuclear weapons. Iran denies the nuclear weapons accusation.
Asked if Iran would ask for concessions if it helped with Iraq, Mottaki said: “Let the United States withdraw from Iraq first and then we could talk about the details.”