Iraq has all but given up on bringing U.S., Iran together

McClatchy NewspapersMay 7, 2008 

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi government has all but given up on hopes it can persuade Iran and the United States to meet again to discuss security issues, the Iraqi foreign minister said Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said that his government has proposed four dates to the U.S. and Iran for tri-lateral talks, but that each has been rejected. He said the government will not propose another.

“We believe the conditions should be conducive,” Zebari said. “In the atmosphere of media attacks . . . and the lack of trust and confidence, I don’t think we will succeed in having the fourth round,” he said.

But he added that he believed talks were necessary in the current atmosphere.

“The idea is not dead,” he said. “We hope that we will be able to resume it. We think it’s very useful especially with the current circumstances of increase tension in the area.”

Last year, Iranian and American diplomats held three rounds of talks on Iraqi security issues — the first official diplomatic contact between the two countries in 27 years. But hopes for a fourth round have been disappointed, with both sides saying there'd been no results from the first three rounds, though U.S. officials said Iran at one point seemed to have stopped shipping weapons to Iraq and the Americans released several Iranians it had been holding.

But recent fighting in the southern port city of Basra and Baghdad's Sadr City district have made the U.S. and Iran even more hostile toward one another.

On Monday, the Iranian foreign minister’s spokesman, Mohammed Ali Hosseini, said that continued U.S. air strikes in Sadr City made it meaningless to have more talks with the United States.

In Baghdad U.S. officials have stepped up their accusations against Iran, renewing their claims that Iran is smuggling weapons into Iraq and funding and training Shiite Muslim militias. The heavily fortified Green Zone has come under heavy rocket fire for weeks by what the U.S. military says are 107 mm Iranian made rockets.

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker has consistently called Iran’s influence in Iraq negative. In March, he told McClatchy that “There is nothing I can point to and say that this is a direct and positive result of those talks.”

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