Report: US, Iran in secret talks to resume diplomatic relations; Tehran denies
The Iranian government is debating re-establishing diplomatic relations with the United States for the first time in 23 years and is holding secret talks with U.S. diplomats in Geneva on a range of issues, including the shape of a new government in Iraq, U.S. and Iranian diplomats said, according to The USA Today on Monday.
The Geneva discussions, due to resume next week, are headed on the U.S. side by Zalmay Khalilzad, President Bush's special envoy to Iraq and Afghanistan, the report said. A representative of the United Nations opens the talks but does not always stay, U.S. officials said. There have been three meetings this year, the most recent on May 3.
Secretary of State Colin Powell confirmed the dialogue with Iran but said restoration of formal relations was not on the horizon. "The issue of diplomatic relations is not on the table right now for either side," Powell said. "But in terms of communicating with the Iranians, we have such ways, and we use them on a regular basis."
"The debate is taking place both in Iran and the United States," said an Iranian diplomat who asked not to be named. "We are ready to discuss re-establishing relations on the basis of mutual respect."
On its part, Iran dismissed reports on Monday that it was discussing restoring diplomatic relations with the United States, but stopped short of denying that talks of some kind had taken place with the Americans.
"The behaviour adopted by the Americans shows that they do not observe equality and mutual respect," state radio quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi as saying on Monday. "Therefore, there have been no negotiations for mutual relations and restoring ties with America," he said. (Albawaba.com)
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