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Iran seeking new talks with U.S. on security in Iraq

Tehran wants ambassadorial-level discussions and a specific agenda, Iraqi officials reported.

BAGHDAD - Iran wants to renew high-level talks with U.S. officials on security in Iraq, insisting that discussions take place between ambassadors and not lower-level functionaries, Iraqi officials said yesterday.

The Iranians also want a clear-cut agenda for the meeting, which the American side has not yet provided, according to Sami al-Askari, an adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and a member of parliament. Three Iraqi officials confirmed his account, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak to the media.

In Washington, the State Department said three-way talks including Iraq were likely to be held in a number of weeks. Spokesman Tom Casey said that, "as always, the talks would be restricted to issues related to Iraq's security." He said Iraq was eager to hold another round and was working on a date.

There was no immediate comment or confirmation from Iran's Foreign Ministry or state media.

A May 28 meeting concerning security in Iraq between U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, broke a 27-year diplomatic freeze between the two countries.

A planned Dec. 18 meeting between Iranian and American security, military and diplomatic experts was canceled a few days before it was to be held. At the time, Iranian officials said it was a scheduling problem, while U.S. officials referred questions to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry.

American officials have since pointed out that Dec. 18 was the day Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise visit to Iraq, which forced the postponement of the meeting. For security reasons, they said they could not disclose Rice's arrival date ahead of time.

Since then, top Iranian officials in Baghdad have asked their Iraqi counterparts to push the Americans to hold a fourth round of talks between Crocker and Qomi, an Iranian official told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The two last met in August, shortly after the first and only meeting of low-level experts, which produced no concrete results.