US diplomat to contact Iran

Published November 30, 2005

NEW YORK, Nov 29: The United States has affirmed that its envoy to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, would make contacts with Iran but stressed that the dialogue would focus on Iraq and have little impact on ruptured bilateral ties.

The State Department spokesman Sean McCormack sought to downplay plans by Mr Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Iraq, to meet with the Iranians, saying the Afghan-born diplomat would only have a “very narrow mandate”.

“It’s a very narrow mandate that he has, and it deals specifically with issues related to Iraq,” Mr McCormack told reporters.

“Iran and Iraq should have the kind of relations — good relations that most neighbours enjoy, that those relations be governed by mutual respect and by transparency. So we would expect nothing less from Iran with respect to Iraq,” the spokesman said.

Mr McCormack observed that there have been contacts between the United States and Iran related to Afghanistan before, “so there is precedent for this kind of engagement”.

The United States has accused Iran of failing to control its border with Iraq and allowing insurgents to enter Iraq to fight against the US-led multinational forces there.

“Iran and Iraq should have the kind of relations — good relations that most neighbours enjoy, that those relations be governed by mutual respect and by transparency. So we would expect nothing less from Iran with respect to Iraq,” he said.

“Khalilzad needs to work through any of those issues in Baghdad, it would be specifically related to Iraq,” he said. The US severed relations with Iran after US diplomats were taken hostage in Tehran in 1979.

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