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More U.S., Iran talks next week

  • Story Highlights
  • Iranian, U.S. ambassadors met three times already this year
  • Meeting will lay the groundwork for a possible fourth round of talks
  • Iraqi government wants to pursue close relations with Iran, U.S.
  • U.S. and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since 1980
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Security experts from the United States and Iran will meet again in Baghdad next week to discuss stability in Iraq, paving the way for more talks between the two nations' ambassadors, according to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.

"We have the agreement of both sides to resume the fourth round of talks," Zebari told reporters Monday.

Zebari said the Tuesday, December 18, meeting in Baghdad will involve a subcommittee of security experts, military officials and diplomats.

"This will be a technical meeting follow-up to the last security experts' meeting," he said.

U.S. Ambassador Marcie Ries, the embassy's political military counselor, will lead the American delegation, said U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo.

Washington, Tehran and Baghdad announced in late November that "expert-level," non-ambassadorial talks would take place in the near future.

No date has been set for a meeting of the U.S. and Iranian ambassadors.

Tensions have eased between Iran and the United States regarding Tehran's role in Iraq. Iraqi and U.S. officials have indicated recently that Iran is using its influence to improve security in Iraq by restraining cross-border weapons flow and militia activity.

"We hope to be able to continue to see that improvement," State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said Monday, stressing that the United States is looking for long-term progress from Iran.

Iranian Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker met in May, July and August, to discuss Iraq's security in talks hosted by the Iraqi government.

Zebari held out hope that next week's meeting will lead to another round of ambassadorial talks.

"This committee is focused on certain issues, so everybody agreed to resume talks on that basis," Zebari said. "It doesn't mean there wouldn't be in the future further meetings at different level, maybe even ambassadors or higher than ambassadors.

"But now the proposal on the fourth round of talks (is) on the subcommittee level meeting."

The Iraqi government wants to pursue close relations with both of the longtime adversaries, the United States and Iran, and it has urged both countries to put aside their differences when it comes to helping Iraq grow.

Such U.S.-Iranian engagements were suggested by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which recommended U.S.-Iranian talks as a possible way to help improve the environment in Iraq. The Iraqi government, which is led by Shiite Muslim parties with close ties to Iran, has urged both countries to put aside their differences to help bring about peace and security.


The United States and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since 1980, and the Swiss Embassy represents U.S. interests in Iran. Washington accuses Iran's Quds Force, an arm of the country's Revolutionary Guard, of aiding Shiite militias in Iraq.

Because of the Shiite majority in both countries, the cultural influence between Iran and Iraq is significant, and both countries have been working to improve their political and economic relationships. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh and Elise Labott contributed to this report

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