- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 17, 2007

WASHINGTON — The United States wants to have a second round of direct talks with arch-rival Iran to convey concerns that Tehran is fueling sectarian violence Iraq, the State Department said today.

“We think that given the situation in Iraq and that given Iran’s continued behavior that is leading to further instability in Iraq, it would be appropriate to have a another face-to-face meeting,” with Tehran, department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Washington, he said, wanted to “directly convey to the Iranian authorities that if they wish to see a more stable, secure, peaceful Iraq — which is what they have said they would like to see — that they need to change their behavior,” he said.

“They need to stop supporting sectarian militias that are exacerbating sectarian tension … stop supporting EFP networks that pose a threat to our troops,” Mr. McCormack said, referring to so called explosively formed penetrators that could pierce armored vehicles.

He indicated that arrangements were being made to have the meeting and said no date had been fixed yet.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki had said today that Tehran was in favor of the talks, adding that Iraq had asked Iran to take part in it.

It was up to Washington to make an official request to Tehran, he said.

Any U.S. request would have to be made through the Swiss embassy in Tehran, which looks after U.S. interests in the absence of any diplomatic relations between Washington and Tehran.

The two sides last met on security in Iraq on May 28, their highest-level public contacts in 27 years.

That encounter between U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Iranian ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi in Baghdad did not achieve any major breakthrough and was strictly limited to the security situation in Iraq.

Both sides stuck to their familiar positions, with Tehran calling for U.S. troops to be pulled out and Washington accusing Iran of stoking the insurgency that is bedeviling Iraq.