Source AP ©

Iran willing to continue ambassadorial-level talks with U.S.

Iranian diplomats expressed their willingness to hold another round of talks at the ambassadorial level, Iraqi officials said Monday and said that they wanted to skip a postponed meeting with security, military and diplomatic experts from the U.S.

The meeting of such experts was canceled a few days before it was to open on Dec. 18. At the time, Iranian officials said it was a scheduling problem. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise visit to Iraq that day.

The U.S. claims that Iran is backing Shiite militas in Iraq and supplying them with arms, in order to wage a "proxy war' on the U.S. It also claims that 170 Americans have died in this "proxy war." Iran denies these charges. On the positive side, the American and Iranian ambassadors in Iraq have met, and have engaged in direct talks. However, tensions are still high over this issue, as the U.S. raid on the Iranian consulate in Irbil (to be discussed subsequently) shows.

When asked if Iran is supplying weapons to the Taliban by Voice of America, a U.S.-funded outlet, current president of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, laughed and said the US doesn't want Iran to be friends with Afghanistan. "What is the reason they are saying such things?" asked Ahmadinejad.

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