Report: Iranian Official Dismisses Possibility Of Iran-U.S. Talks During Iraq Conference

Wednesday, May 2nd 2007, 7:27 am
By: News On 6

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Iran's deputy foreign minister dismissed the possibility of direct U.S.-Iran talks on the sidelines of this week's international conference on Iraq, a semiofficial Iranian news agency reported.

Iran said Sunday that it would join the U.S. and other countries at the two-day gathering that begins Thursday at a Red Sea resort in Egypt. This raised hopes Tehran would help stabilize its violent neighbor and that the gathering would provide for a rare encounter between high-level U.S. and Iranian officials.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said she will not rule out sideline talks with Iranian and Syrian diplomats. Lower-level U.S. diplomats had brief face-to-face meetings with counterparts from Iran and Syria during a similar Iraq-themed conference in Baghdad in March.

But the Iranian report appeared to dampen expectations of a Rice tete-a-tete with Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki who heads the Iranian delegation.

``The conditions are not ripe at the present time for talks,'' ISNA news agency quoted Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Mahdi Mostafavi as saying in a report late Tuesday.

``Dialogue with the U.S. is not compatible with the U.S. preconditions and stances (on Iran),'' Mostafavi added. ``It is not possible to show the utmost hostility against Iran on one hand and to express interest in talks on the other.''

ISNA, a state-controlled news agency, is often used to reflect hardline views within the government.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told state television on Tuesday that his country has not received an official offer from Washington on holding direct talks.

Hossini said Tehran is busy with ``preparations for the meetings, discussions and the final statement of the conference.''

Iran will emphasize the role of neighboring countries in stabilizing Iraq and not give the conference an opportunity to accuse it, he said, adding that past accusations have ``proven baseless.''

The United States accuses Iran of providing weapons to Shiite insurgents in Iraq. Iran, a Shiite Muslim country with close ties to Iraq's majority Shiite population, says it does not allow fighters to cross into Iraq, but it does not rule out that such people might cross the long border illegally.

Washington cut diplomatic ties with Iran following the 1979 storming of the American Embassy in Tehran. Although there have been intermittent diplomatic contacts, the Bush administration has resisted pressure to start direct talks with Iran to improve security in Iraq.