Iran to America: Make your intentions clear

BAGHDAD – Don't expect any gestures to the United States from Iran anytime soon.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who was in Baghdad Wednesday, told reporters that the Islamic Republic wouldn't be offering any confidence-building measures designed to bring about immediate talks between the two long-time adversaries.

While he said that Tehran welcomes promised changes from the Obama administration, it's up to the US to make its intentions clear.

“The American government should give a clear picture toward its policy [with Iran],” said Mr. Mottaki, speaking in Farsi through an Arabic interpreter.

He also ruled out reviving tripartite talks with Iraq and the US, saying improved Iraqi security no longer warranted the three-party discussions. Iraq has hosted three ambassadorial-level meetings between the US and Iran that were seen as a breakthrough in the US-Iranian willingness to meet. The meetings, however, produced no real results.

US and Iraqi officials say Iran has recently eased off on its political interference and on sending weapons and fighters into Iraq.

"There is evidence that there is less interference," says a senior Iraqi official. “This is not to say they have abandoned that method – this may be a lull or a pause."

Officials say as part of expanding ties with Iraq, Iran will open consulates in Basra, Arbil, and Sulaymaniyah. Iran has had a representative office in Arbil. Three years ago, US forces broke into that office and arrested five Iranians, some with diplomatic passports, accusing them of being involved in planning attacks in Iraq. They later released two. Iraq has asked the US for evidence that they were interfering in Iraqi security. All prisoners held by the US are due to be turned over to Iraqi authorities this year.

Mottaki and a delegation of trade officials left for Baghdad Tuesday night but their aircraft was forced to turn back due to a severe sandstorm. Wednesday morning, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zubari and other senior ministry officials receiving him were left waiting almost half an hour after Mottaki’s motorcade was caught in traffic. One official said it was because Iranian delegations refused to cut through the Green Zone, where access is still controlled by US soldiers

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