US rejects high-level talks with Iran

Posted Thu Jul 26, 2007 5:14am AEST

The United States has rejected holding higher-level talks with Iran, one day after their ambassadors to Baghdad held a landmark second meeting on Iraqi security.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki says that Tehran is willing to consider talking to Washington, its arch-foe for almost three decades, at the level of deputy foreign minister.

But State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says he does not see that happening at this point in time.

"We have an established channel with [US Ambassador to Iraq] Ryan Crocker and we are taking a look at the suggestion to establish a subcommittee of that group, which would actually be lower level, technically-oriented officials," Mr McCormack said.

"We are talking to the Iraqis, we are talking to the Iranians about that. We are talking about the modalities of such a group and we will make a decision on it."

In Tehran, Mr Mottaki has backtracked, state news agency IRNA says.

"Raising the level of the discussions is not on the agenda," Mr Mottaki said.

"Such a request has not been made."

Mr Crocker and Tehran's envoy, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, held a second round of talks on Tuesday in Baghdad over security in Iraq to follow up a first meeting on May 28.

The outcome of the meeting appeared to be mixed with both sides still at loggerheads over who was to blame for the daily violence in Iraq.

At the meeting, the United States accused Iran of stepping up its alleged support of militia groups and afterwards, Mr Crocker admitted that the encounter had been marked by "heated exchanges".

The US, a close ally of Tehran during the rule of the pro-US Shah, broke off diplomatic relations with Iran in 1980 during the 444-day siege of its embassy in Tehran by students after the Islamic revolution.

Ties have remained frozen ever since, with tensions now exacerbated further by the controversy over Iran's nuclear program and the jailing by Tehran of US-Iranian academics accused of harming national security.