Wednesday, March 22, 2006
AP: Iran ruling cleric approves talks with U.S. on Iraq
By NASSER KARIMI, Associated Press Writer -- Tuesday, 11:01 PM ET
TEHRAN, Iran - 's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right [in front of a picture of Iran's late revolutionary founder, Ayatollah Khomeini (AP Photo/ISNA, Alireza Sot Akbar)] said Tuesday that he approves of proposed talks between U.S. and Iranian officials on , but warned that the United States must not try to "bully" Iran.
It was the first confirmation that Khamenei, who holds final say on all state matters in Iran, supports the talks. His comments appeared aimed at calming criticism by hard-liners over a major shift in policy by the regime, which long shunned high-level contacts with a country Tehran brands "the Great Satan."
said Tuesday he favors the talks and that American officials would show Iran "what's right or wrong in their activities inside of Iraq."
Khamenei said that "if the Iranian officials can make the U.S. understand some issues about Iraq, there is no problem with the negotiations."
"But if the talks mean opening a venue for bullying and imposition by the deceitful party (the Americans), then it will be forbidden," he said in a nationally televised speech in the holy Shiite city of Mashhad in northeastern Iran.
Both the United States and Iran have said the talks will focus solely on stabilizing Iraq and not deal with the heated issue of Iran's nuclear program. No time or place has yet been set for talks.
Khamenei appeared to be weighing in to end hard-line criticism, while insisting Iran would not bow to the United States in any talks. He said some U.S. officials had depicted the talks as if the United States were "summoning Iranian officials."
"I say here that the U.S. government has no right to summon Iranian officials," Khamenei said.
Khamenei is considered the leader of hard-liners in Iran who largely prevented reformists from opening greater contacts with the United States. Still, under his rule, Iran has held lower-level talks with American officials, particularly in multilateral gatherings for efforts to stabilizeand counter narcotics, for instance.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Friday that the talks could help Iraq form a government, while Ali Larijani, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, said Iran hopes the meetings will help lead to U.S. troop withdrawal.
Iran has considerable influence with Shiite political parties who dominate Iraq's parliament, and Secretary of Statehas said U.S.-Iranian talks on Iraq could be "useful."
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