BAGHDAD (AP) – A meeting brokered by Baghdad between Iran and the United States over Iraq’s security was postponed Thursday, an Iraqi government official said, a day after Washington insisted no such talks were planned.
The official said the Iranian delegation, which arrived Wednesday in Baghdad after Iran announced the talks would take place Thursday, would return to Tehran after visiting Shiite Muslim shrines in Baghdad and in the holy city of Karbala.
No new date was set for the fourth round of talks between U.S. and Iranian officials over ways to improve Iraq’s security, added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
On Wednesday, Iran’s state news agency, IRNA, reported that an Iranian delegation headed by Reza Amiri Moghaddam had arrived in Baghdad for the talks, which it said would take place Thursday.
But Iraqi officials hedged the exact timing of the talks, and American officials said no such meeting was planned. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said Thursday it would not comment further and referred to remarks made Wednesday by U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey in Washington. “Arrangements have not been made,” spokesman Tom Casey said. “The U.S. government has no plans to have a meeting.”
It was not immediately known why there was a discrepancy in the statements.
The U.S. and Iranian ambassadors held the first round of talks in May, a rare meeting between the two countries, which have not had formal relations since the taking of hostages at the U.S. embassy after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.
The sides met again late last summer at the ambassadorial level, and there has been one other meeting at the expert level.
Another round of expert-level talks had been slated for Feb. 15 but Iraq postponed the discussions without giving a reason. Thursday’s discussions were also to have been at the expert level.
The U.S. has repeatedly accused Iran of training and funding extremists in Iraq’s Shiite majority who attack American forces and rivals in the nation’s Sunni minority.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the accusations this week, and bashed the U.S. repeatedly, saying its presence in Iraq was a “humiliation” and said it should leave. However, he left the door open to further discussions with the Americans, saying at a news conference during a landmark trip to Baghdad that he couldn’t predict whether there would be more talks in the future.