TEHRAN, (Reuters) – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday sanctioned talks with the United States on Iraq, saying Iranian officials would tell the U.S. to leave the country.
“If Iranian officials can express Iran’s opinion about Iraq to Americans and make them understand Iran’s views, talks on this issue are not problematic,” Khamenei, who has the final say in all state matters, said in the northeastern city of Mashhad.
“But if (talks) mean opening up an arena for deceitful Americans to continue their bullying attitude, talks with America on Iraq are banned,” he said in a televised speech.
U.S. President George W. Bush said on Tuesday Washington would make clear in the talks, expected this week, that it would not accept attempts to spread sectarian violence in Iraq.
Tehran denies U.S. charges it is helping inflame sectarian violence in Iraq and that some components of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, used by insurgents in Iraq have been traced to Iran.
“Our clear opinion on Iraq is that the American government should leave Iraq and stop provoking ethnic tensions and creating insecurity so that (Iraq) has peace and security,” Khamenei said.
Iraqi political sources said they expected the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, to meet with Iran’s representatives this week.
Bush has said he views Iran as a threat, and the United States is leading diplomatic efforts to isolate its longtime foe over Tehran’s nuclear program.
But the United States has said it is open to talks with Iran on what it sees as Tehran’s meddling in Iraq, while the nuclear issue should be left for international negotiations.