Sunday, November 27, 2005

Bush to reach out to Iran in bid to quell Iraq unrest

WASHINGTON (AFP) - President George W. Bush has asked US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad to reach out to Iran for assistance in subduing the unrest in Iraq — the first high-level US contact with Tehran in decades, Newsweek magazine reported yesterday. “I’ve been authorised by the president to engage the Iranians,” Khalilzad told Newsweek in its edition set to hit newsstands today. “There will be meetings, and that’s also a departure and an adjustment,” he said in an interview with the magazine.

ABC television confirmed the proposed US approach to Iran on its This Week programme yesterday, reporting that Khalilzad was to make direct contact with the Iranian government about the ongoing insurgency in Iraq. The contact would be the first high-level communication at the senior level between Washington and Tehran since relations ruptured in 1979.

Meanwhile, Britain, France and Germany agreed yesterday to hold talks with Iran on resuming negotiations which broke down in August about the country’s disputed nuclear programme, a British spokesman said. “I can confirm that a letter has been written by the three foreign ministers offering to have talks about restarting the negotiations on the nuclear issue,” a spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair said in Barcelona, where Blair was attending a Euro-Mediterranean summit.

Earlier Iran’s official Irna news agency said ambassadors of the so-called EU3 countries handed over a letter accepting a resumption of the talks in December, quoting a statement issued by Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.