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Iran, US may meet on Iraq security in 'few days': Shiite leader


december 4, 2007

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The fourth round of US-Iranian talks on curbing violence in Iraq may take place in the next few days, powerful Iraqi Shiite leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim said Tuesday at the end of a US visit.

Hakim, who met with US President George W. Bush last week, said the newly released US intelligence report saying Iran halted its nuclear bomb program in 2003 would help the dialogue between the two foes.

"I suppose that Iraq should host in the coming few days this fourth round of the dialogue. We are seeking to see a constructive dialogue," Hakim said at a news conference.

"We welcome this (US intelligence) report and we think that it is going to contribute in preparing a more positive and proper environment to advance forward in the dialogue between the two countries," he said through an interpreter.

"And absolutely it is going to have positive reflections on the situation in Iraq," said Hakim, who heads the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), the party leading the Shiite alliance ruling Baghdad.

Iran agreed last month to the fourth round of talks with the United States in Iraq.

The new talks would come as Iran expresses vindication by the findings of the US National Intelligence Estimate, which said that US allegations about its atomic goals had been exaggerated for at least two years.

The report released Monday, however, said Iran could have the capability to make a nuclear weapon by 2015.

Bush insisted Tuesday that Iran remains a danger and urged the international community to keep pressure on the Islamic regime to stop its uranium enrichment program.

The United States broke off diplomatic ties with Iran in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The United States has accused Iran of stoking violence in Iraq, although a US general said last month that Tehran appears to be keeping a pledge to stop the flow of the weapons into its strife-torn neighbor.

The US and Iranian ambassadors to Iraq have held two sets of face-to-face talks on May 28 and July 24, the highest level public contacts between the two sides for 27 years.

The two sides also met at experts' level on August 6 but no meeting has been held since then.

Iran and the United States have already held three rounds of talks over Iraq this year. The sheer fact the talks took place despite such an acrimonious history was hailed as a landmark event.

The US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, are likely to represent their respective governments at the coming talks, Haitham Al-Husseini, a member of Hakim's delegation, told AFP.

"I think the ambassadors, of course, are going to participate," he said.

The Iraqi ambassador to the United States, Samir Sumaidaie, said he could not confirm whether the talks would take place soon but that Baghdad was working to make the meeting happen.

"We are trying to set that up," said Sumaidaie, who attended Hakim's press conference.

During his week-long visit, Hakim also met with Vice President Dick Cheney, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and a host of US lawmakers, his delegation said.

:: Article nr. 38914 sent on 05-dec-2007 04:07 ECT


Link: news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20071205/wl_mideast_afp/usiraniraqunrestdiplomacy_071205003

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