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Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki (Photolur)
March 17, 2006 -- The Iranian Foreign Minister says Tehran's decision to open diplomatic talks about Iraq with Washington is based upon what he called Tehran's "constant willingness" to help Iraq.
Manuchehr Mottaki made the remarks after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she thinks talks with Iran could be "useful." Rice says the talks will focus only on Iraq -- and will not be expanded to include the controversy over Iran's nuclear programs.
The United States and Iran have not had formal diplomatic ties since the storming of the U.S. embassy in Tehran by Islamist students in 1979.
The United States is now leading diplomatic efforts to isolate Iran over its nuclear ambitions. It also accuses Iran of contributing to instability in Iraq. Iran denies the charges.
Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said of March 16 that Tehran accepted the proposal from Washington in order "to help resolve the problems in Iraq and establish an independent government there."
The Iranian government previously had ruled out any talks with Washington on Iraq until U.S. military forces withdraw from the country.
The U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, has been authorized by the White House to speak to Iranian diplomats about concerns related to Iraq.
Today, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad issued a statement that again accuses Tehran of meddling in Iraq's internal affairs. That statement says Iran is carrying out "unhelpful activities" in Iraq.