TEHRAN (Reuters) -Iran said on Tuesday it had not decided whether to talk to the United States, but would review any request by the U.S. administration which is under pressure to deal directly with Tehran to ease security problems in Iraq.
Washington is leading efforts to press for United Nations sanctions on Iran over its nuclear work, but at the same time is conducting a review of its policy in Iraq which is expected to recommend the administration engage with Iran and Syria.
Iran has said it would consider any official request for talks with the United States. Washington and Tehran have not had diplomatic ties since Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy in Iran in 1979 and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.
The two sides have come close to holding direct, formal talks before and looked to have agreed in March to talks on Iraq, but Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in April there was no need for such a dialogue.
Asked if any decision had been made on negotiations with the United States, Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said: “Iran has not made any new decision in that regard.”
“Reviewing is different from giving a positive answer. We review any proposal in various fields of foreign relations in the Foreign Ministry, but it does not necessarily mean issuing a positive response,” Mottaki told a news conference.
U.S. ally British Prime Minister Tony Blair is among those promoting U.S. engagement with Syria and Iran over Iraq, an idea under discussion in Washington by the Iraq Study Group — commissioned by President Bush to review policy in Iraq.
Last month, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, said “foreign rivals” such as Iran and Syria were trying to tear the Iraqi people apart along sectarian lines.
Iran, which has close religious ties to Iraq’s majority Shi’ite Muslims, has denied supporting armed groups in Iraq and blames the violence on the March 2003 invasion and occupation by U.S.-led forces.
The United States says it will only speak to Iran on the nuclear issue when Tehran abandons its uranium enrichment, something the Islamic Republic has refused to do.
“Iran’s position in the nuclear case is clear,” said Mottaki. “We do not have any requests for negotiations (with the United States).