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Iran-US talks on Iraq would be useful: Rice

Written by: Staff
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SYDNEY, Mar 17: U S Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Friday she believed talks with Iran on the issue of Iraq would be ''useful'' but would not be expanded to included to cover Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

The White House yesterday said that U S Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad was authorised to speak to the Iranians about concerns related to Iraq after the Islamic republic responded to prior offers from Washington for a dialogue.

''These talks might be useful ... but those talks are limited to questions concerning the country at issue, so in this case it would be limited to questions about Iraq,'' Rice told a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister John Howard in Sydney.

''We will see when and if those talks take place.'' Iran had initially rejected a U S offer for talks about its neighbour Iraq where recent sectarian violence has raised fears of civil war nearly three years after the U.S. invasion toppled Saddam Hussein.

Tehran changed its position after President George W. Bush made his most explicit accusation this week that Iranians were contributing to instability in Iraq. In Tehran, a senior official said Iran was willing to talk with the United States on Iraq.

Rice reiterated White House comments that the channel of communications over Iraq was narrow, with only Iraq to be discussed, and that the nuclear issue was one for the U N Security Council.

''This isn't a negotiation of some kind. We have found it useful to exchange information with Iran and if we do it will be about Iraq,'' Rice said, during a three-day visit to Australia.

Washington says Iran is trying to make nuclear weapons but Tehran says it is just developing nuclear energy.

The United States, Britain and France want the Security Council to issue a statement that would express ''serious concern'' and would ask the International Atomic Energy Agency to report back quickly to the council on Iranian compliance with demands.

''I think that (the Security Council is) the place that this issue needs to be resolved,'' Rice said.

REUTERS

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