TEHRAN, Iran – Iran said Monday it would not hold a new round of talks with the U.S. on security in Iraq until American forces end their current assault against Shiite militias.
U.S. and Iraqi forces have been battling supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and Iraq's government spokesman said Sunday that the crackdown would continue even if Iran pulled out of the talks.
"We believe the talks will not be held given the current situation (in Iraq)," Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters during his weekly press briefing Sunday.
Hosseini's announcement was the first official confirmation that Iran has decided to suspend talks with the Americans. Iran and the U.S. have held three rounds of ambassador level talks on security in Iraq since last May.
"What we are witnessing is open and extensive bombing of the Iraqi nation, while the main goal of talks with the American side would have been security and peace in Iraq," said Hosseini. "It is a matter of doubt that the U.S. is pursuing a solution for the crisis, which was caused by them."
The U.S. has accused Iran of supporting Shiite militias in Iraq. But Iran, which is predominantly Shiite like Iraq, has blamed violence in the war-torn country on the U.S. presence.
A five-member Iraqi delegation was sent to Tehran last week to try to choke off suspected Iranian aid to militiamen.
Commenting on the Iran-Iraq talks, Hosseini said, "Tehran has always said that it supports the Iraqi government and legal action against illegal armed groups who commit crimes there."
He did not specify how such action differed from the current assault by U.S. and Iraqi forces against Shiite militias in Iraq.
Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Sunday that there was no "conclusive" evidence that Iran was supplying weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq.
He said Iraq does not want trouble with Iran and would not be pushed to take an aggressive attitude toward the country.