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World Iran-U.S. talks on Iraq security to start Tuesday - Iranian diplomat

RIA Novosti

23/07/2007 15:14 TEHRAN, July 23 (RIA Novosti) - Iran's ambassador to Iraq confirmed that talks between his country and the United States on security issues in Iraq would begin Tuesday in Baghdad.

The statement corroborates the Friday announcement by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiar al-Zibari that the second U.S.-Iran ambassador meeting since the 1979 diplomatic crisis would be held in Baghdad July 24.

"Such talks will be held tomorrow. The composition of the delegations, which will be headed by the two countries' ambassadors, will be the same as during the previous round of talks," Hassan Kazemi Qomi said, adding that the meeting would include Iraqi representatives.

Washington accuses Tehran of backing sectarian militias, an allegation Tehran has categorically dismissed.

Iran has, in turn, claimed that the main source of instability in the civil war-torn country is the presence of the U.S.-led military in the country since the 2003 invasion, which toppled Saddam Hussein but failed to ensure security or establish a democratic government.

According to the Iraqi foreign minister, the second round of U.S.-Iran consultations will begin amid progress in the political situation in Iraq, as radical Shiite (Moqtada al-Sadr) as well as Sunni (Iraqi Accord Front) representatives are returning to the government shattered by a recent boycott by four Sunni ministers.

The four had walked out in protest over the way Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who heads the Shiite-dominated government, handled legal proceedings against one of their Sunni colleagues.

The first round of talks was held in the U.S.-controlled "Green Zone" in Baghdad May 28 between the U.S. and Iranian Ambassadors Ryan Crocker and Hassan Kazemi Qomi. The consultations ended in smiles, but featured mutual accusations of supporting opponents and adversaries.

The sides agreed to set up a trilateral committee on security that would help Iraq resolve security issues and strengthen the defense capability of the country.

The two sides agreed to support and strengthen the Iraqi government, which was another positive item achieved at the talks. The talks did not touch on the most controversial issue of bilateral relations - Iran's nuclear program - that the U.S. suspects is a covert weapons program.

Iraqi officials called for further discussion between the U.S. and Iran of security in Iraq, but some analysts in Iraq say it is the interference of the U.S. and Iran that has caused instability in the country.

Iran and the United States severed official relations following the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by radical students in the wake of the Iranian revolution that toppled the Shah. American personnel were held hostage for 444 days.

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