Iraq: Iran may raise level of talks with U.S. as Sunni bloc suspends government participation
Iran will consider the question of Iran-US talks on Iraq at the level of deputy foreign ministers, said Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Wednesday. Mottaki's remarks came while he was commenting on a US request for continuation of Tehran-Washington talks over security issues in Iraq at the deputy foreign ministers level.
"The issue can be considered if a formal request is received from the US side," said the minister speaking to reporters at the end of a Cabinet session.
Iran and US started the second round of their talks on Iraq in al-Khadra district, west of Baghdad, on Tuesday at ambassadorial level. Iran's Ambassador to Iraq Hassan Kazemi Qomi chaired the Iranian delegation while his US counterpart, Ryan Crocker represented US in the meeting. The first round of Iran-US talks on Iraq was also held with the participation of Qomi and Crocker in Baghdad on July 28.
On his part, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stressed on Wednesday Iran's firm policy on Iraq which aims at supporting the country's security, solidarity and its government. Commenting on the second round of Iran-US talks on Iraq, the Iranian leader said, "Assisting the people and government of Iraq was the only objective behind Tehran's talks with US officials."
Stressing that the talks had taken place upon the request of Iraqi officials, the president said, "We will do all within our power to help Iraq's security, solidarity and its government." Asked if the issue of the detained Iranian diplomats in Iraq was discussed during Tuesday's talks, the president said, "I have not seen the report of the talks yet."
Meanwhile, Iraq's largest Sunni bloc said Wednesday it had suspended its membership in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition government. The Iraqi Accordance Front, which has six Cabinet members as well as 44 of parliament's 275 seats, said it was giving al-Maliki a week to meet their demands or it would quit his 14-month-old Cabinet altogether.
"The Accordance Front announces the suspension of its membership in the government," Sheik Khalaf al-Elyan said at a news conference attended by the two other leaders of the three-party Accordance Front - Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi of the Iraqi Islamic Party and Adnan al-Dulaimi of the Congress of the People of Iraq. Al-Elyan leads the National Dialogue Council.
According to the AP, al-Elyan said the front's demands included a pardon for security detainees not charged with specific crimes, a firm commitment by the government to human rights, the disbanding of militias and the inclusion of all parties in the government in dealing with the country's security situation.