Iran Is Ready for High-Level Talks With U.S. on Iraq, Foreign Minister Says

Iran is ready to consider high-level talks with the United States regarding security in Iraq, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported Wednesday.

The report came a day after the American and Iranian ambassadors to Iraq met in Baghdad and agreed to set up a security subcommittee to carry forward talks on restoring stability in the wartorn nation.

"The issue of negotiations between Iran and the U.S. about Iraq at the level of deputy foreign ministers is reviewable," the agency quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki as saying after a cabinet meeting in Tehran.

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Mottaki said that "necessary studies will be undertaken" in case a "formal request" is made by the U.S. for new, higher-level talks on Iraq.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said after the talks in Baghdad that experts would meet as early as Wednesday to work out the structure and mechanism of the committee.

"We hope that the next round of talks will be on a higher level if progress is made," he said at a news conference after the talks.

But underscoring the rising tensions between the two foes, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker reiterated accusations that Iran is fueling the violence in Iraq by arming and training Shiite militias. He warned that no progress could be made unless Iranian actions change on the ground.

Iranian Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi countered that Tehran was helping Iraq deal with the security situation but that Iraqis were "victimized by terror and the presence of foreign forces" on their territory.

He said Tuesday his delegation also demanded the release of five Iranians detained by U.S. forces in Iraq. The United States has said the five were linked to Iran's elite Quds Force, which it has accused of arming and training Iraqi militants. Iran says the five are diplomats who were legally in Iraq.

Iraq's fragile government has been pressing for more contacts between the two nations with the greatest influence over its future, and Iran has repeatedly signaled its willingness to sit down.

Iran holds considerable sway in Iraq, where the majority of the population is also Shiite Muslim and where many Shiite political parties are seen as having ties to Tehran.

The United States broke off diplomatic ties with the Islamic republic following the 1979 storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the holding of American hostages for 444 days.

Complete coverage is available in's Iraq Center.