- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2007

BAGHDAD (AP) The United States and Iran held “frank and serious” expert-level talks on security issues in Iraq today, more than two weeks after a rare meeting between the ambassadors of the two countries.

Washington has accused Tehran of fueling the violence by arming and training Shi’ite extremists, but it agreed during the July 24 ambassadorial talks to set up a security subcommittee to carry forward talks on restoring stability in Iraq.

The detention of four Iranian-Americans in Iran has deepened tensions between Washington and Tehran, whose relations were already strained over Iran’s nuclear program and its support for radical militant groups like Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas, and by U.S. military maneuvers in the Persian Gulf.

Washington has called for the detainees’ release and says the charges are false.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman, Lou Fintor, said today’s discussions were “frank and serious” and focused on the violence plaguing Iraq.

He said the American delegation was led by the U.S. Embassy’s counselor for political and military affairs, Marcie B. Ries.

An Iranian Foreign Ministry official, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, headed the Iranian delegation, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Iran holds considerable sway in Iraq, where the majority of the population is also Shi’ite Muslim and where Shi’ite political parties have close ties to Tehran.

U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, agreed to establish the security committee during a second in a series of rare meetings July 24.



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