Saturday, March 10, 2007

U.S. and Iran 'exchange views' at opening of Baghdad peace conference

Above: the conference in Baghdad. Left: Iran's deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi at a news conference today. The top Iranian official attending said there were no one-to-one talks with U.S. officials but that he did call for a withdrawal of U.S. forces and rejected charges of interference.

BAGHDAD - U.S. and Iranian envoys spoke directly about Iraq's perilous security situation on Saturday in rare one-on-one talks that could help ease their nearly 28-year diplomatic freeze.

Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, opened the one-day meeting of Iraq's neighbors, the United States and others with an appeal for international help to sever networks aiding extremists, warning that Iraq's growing sectarian bloodshed could spill across the Middle East.

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, said he exchanged views with Iranian delegation "directly and in the presence of others" at the meeting, which included the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

Khalilzad declined to give details of the contacts — calling them only "constructive and businesslike and problem-solving" — but noted that he raised U.S. assertions that Shiite militias receive weapons and assistance across the border from Iran.

Read the rest at Yahoo News