TEHRAN, Iran, (AP) -Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said Sunday that Tehran has agreed to a formal request from the U.S. to talk about security in Iraq during meetings in Baghdad, the country’s official news agency reported.
The report said Iran had received the request through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which often acts as an intermediary for the U.S. in the country.
There was no immediate comment or confirmation of the request from Washington.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari had said last week that he expected such Iranian-U.S. talks to happen in Baghdad soon.
During a meeting on Iraq’s future in Baghdad two months ago, mid-level U.S. and Iranian officials did meet briefly and discuss Iran. Mid-level officials also met briefly at last weekend’s Iraq summit at an Egyptian resort.
“Iran has agreed to this (negotiation) after consultation with Iraqi officials, in order to lessen the pain of the Iraqi people, support the Iraqi government and establish security and peace in Iraq,” the agency quoted Mohammad Ali Hosseini, spokesman of Iran’s foreign ministry, as saying.
The report said the negotiations will be held in Baghdad.
“Time and level of negotiation team will be decided by the end of the week,” Hosseini was quoted as saying.
Hosseini said last week that Iran was willing, under the right conditions, to improve its chilly relations with the U.S. despite having passed up the opportunity for high-level, direct talks at the second Iraq conference.
Both nations had sounded interested in meeting at the summit, but the only direct contact came in a casual chat between two lower-ranking officials.
U.S. officials said before the conference that any meeting with the Iranians would be limited to the subject of Iraq, where the U.S. accuses Iran of undermining the fragile government and exporting particularly lethal roadside bombs, a charge that Iran denies.
Washington also accuses Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons program, but Tehran insists that the program is only intended for peaceful purposes such as generating electricity.
On Friday, Vice President Dick Cheney, on an aircraft carrier about 150 miles from the Iranian coast, warned Iran that the U.S. and its allies would prevent the country from developing nuclear weapons and dominating the region.
In response to Cheney’s comments, Hosseini on Sunday accused Washington of spreading fear in the Middle East.
“The U.S. is pursuing the creation of crisis, panic, fear and insecurity in the region, which we strongly oppose,” he said.