U.S., Iran had 'positive' discussion on Iraq in rare talks

Iran proposed a three-party group to address violence in Iraq in the first talks with the United States in nearly 30 years, said a U.S. envoy who called the meeting "positive."

Inits first public talks with the United States in nearly 30 years, Iran on Monday proposed a three-party group to address violence in Iraq, said an American diplomat who described the meeting as "positive."

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, said the United States would consider the plan for an Iraqi-American-Iranian body, to be called the "trilateral security mechanism."

Iranian Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi made the proposal to Crocker in Baghdad, where the two met to talk about Iraq in what has been billed as the first bilateral public talks between the countries in 28 years.

He said Iran was ready to create "a new military and security structure" in Iraq by training soldiers and police.

Crocker characterized the talks as "businesslike." He said he raised Washington's insistence that Iran stopsupporting Shia Muslim militants in Iraq, which Tehran denies it has been doing.

"This is about actions, not just principles, and I laid out to the Iranians direct, specific concerns about their behaviour in Iraq and their support for militias that are fighting Iraqi and coalition forces," Crocker told reporters in Baghdad.

His Iranian counterparts pushed for the United States to acknowledge that its Iraq policy hasn't worked and pull out of the country.

"We are hopeful that Washington's realistic approach to the current issues of Iraq by confessing its failed policy in Iraq and the region, and by showing a determination to changing the policy guarantees success of the talks and possible further talks," Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in Tehran.

Crocker said that, overall, the two sides reached a broad agreement about what needs to happen in Iraq.

"The talks proceeded positively. What we need to see is Iranian action on the ground," Crocker told reporters, according to Reuters. "Right now their actions are running at crossed purposes to their stated policy."

Iraq's Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, said that he didn't expect miracles from the meeting, but it was an important step because it began talks between the parties that play the majorroles in Iraq. "Iran is a player, whether we like it or not," he said.

Kazemi Qomi toldthe Associated Press that there would be a second meeting within a month, but earlier, Crocker said Washington would not respond to Iranian suggestions for anothermeeting until Tehran makes a proposal for a second meeting.

"We will consider that when we receive it," he said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met the two ambassadors at the start of their meeting, but did not attend the session. He said the Iraqis want to be free of foreign influences.

The meeting focused solely on Iraqi policy to the exclusion of all other issues — including the subject of seven Iranians being held by the U.S. military in Iraq on accusations of supporting local militants.

The diplomats also shied away from any discussion of Iran's nuclear program, a source of escalating tensions in recent years between Tehran and the West.

Tehran insists it restarted the program solely to generate power, but several countries, led by the United States, have been pushing for United Nations sanctions because they fear Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

The United States and Iran have not had talks since the 1979 revolution which overthrew the Reza Shah Pahlavi and made Iran an Islamic republic.

With files from the Associated Press