Friday, May 25, 2007


Iranian envoy chosen to lead talks with U.S.

Politics, Region, Security
(Middle East Online) - Iran's envoy in Baghdad will lead his country's delegation in Monday's talks on Iraq with the US, the official IRNA news agency quoted foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini as saying on Friday. "Hassan Kazemi, the ambassador of Iran in Baghdad, has been designated to head the Iranian delegation in the discussions with the representative of the United States about Iraq," it quoted Hosseini as saying. "These talks will begin next Monday" with the aim of finding ways to improve the security situation in Iraq, he added.
Iranian television had earlier reported that Tehran's outgoing UN ambassador, Javad Zarif, would be Iran's representative in the highest-level official bilateral talks between the two sides since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The United States and Iran broke off diplomatic relations in 1980 after radical students stormed the US embassy in Tehran and held its diplomats hostage for 444 days.
Washington's delegation at Monday's landmark meeting will be led by the US envoy to Iraq, Ryan Crocker. Both sides have said their discussions will focus strictly on Iraq, and will not touch on other issues such as Iran's controversial nuclear programme. The United States accuses Iran of seeking nuclear weapons and wants Tehran to freeze sensitive uranium enrichment operations immediately. Iran says its atomic drive is peaceful and that it has every right to the full fuel cycle.
Iran believes that the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq is a prerequisite if security is to be restored to its war-ravaged neighbour. The United States charges Iran with fomenting the violence through its support for extremist groups, mainly Shiite. Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last week that Tehran would merely use the Baghdad talks to remind Washington of its "occupiers' duty" in Iraq.

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