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Iraq Transition

U.S., Iran say they may meet at Baghdad conference

Story Highlights

• U.S. ambassador to Iraq says U.S., Iran, may talk on sidelines of Iraq conference
• Zalmay Khalilzad says U.S. ready to talk about explosives sent into Iraq
• White House has ruled out direct talks unless Iran changes nuclear policy
• Iran spokesman says Tehran "considering" talks with U.S. about Iraq security
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iranian and U.S. representatives may meet on the sidelines of next weekend's regional conference on Iraq -- but it is unlikely that Iran's nuclear program will be among the topics.

Speaking Sunday on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer," U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad -- who will attend the March 10 conference in Baghdad -- held out the possibility of sideline talks with Iran.

"Well, there have been some recent indications that they are interested in a dialogue with regard to Iraq," Khalilzad said.

The ambassador said the United States remains "very concerned about the EFPs [explosively formed projectiles], these weapons that come across the Iranian border into Iraq. And we are prepared to talk to Iranians with regard to these sorts of activities."

The White House has ruled out any direct talks with Iran or Syria during the conference, unless the countries make changes to their policies.

U.S. military officials in Iraq have accused Iran of providing EFPs -- deadly armor-piercing explosives -- and mortar shells to Shiite militias in Iraq, while the United States accuses Syria of letting weapons and fighters reach the Sunni insurgency in western Iraq across its border.

Both countries deny the allegations.

The United States also refuses to hold bilateral talks with Iranian representatives because Tehran is under a U.N. Security Council demand to halt its nuclear fuel program.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman said Sunday that Tehran is "considering" requests from the United States to talk about "Iraq's security situation with Iran," according to Iran's state-run IRNA news agency.

"We are considering these requests and, in view of the fact that the Baghdad meeting is aimed at enhancing Iraq's security, Iran will spare no effort in this regard and if we decide that it is prudent we will participate in the conference," spokesman Seyyed Mohammad-Ali Hosseini said, according to IRNA.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki is scheduled to attend Saturday's conference.

Hosseini said Iran is not opposed to discussing the country's nuclear program during the Baghdad conference, but will not accept any preconditions for meetings with Washington or any other parties.

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia -- along with Germany have said Tehran must stop work on its nuclear program before talks can begin.

"The venue is not the issue. We are prepared to discuss the nuclear question with the 5+1 countries but without any pre-conditions," Hosseini said.

The Board of Governors for the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog group, is scheduled to meet this week in Vienna and is expected to consider sanctions against Iran after Tehran missed a February 21 deadline to freeze its nuclear enrichment program.

"The solution to this issue is through dialogue, otherwise the problem will become even more complicated," Hosseini said.

CNN's Shirzad Bozorgmehr contributed to this report.

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U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, in a file photo, says U.S. and Iranian officials may talk next week.


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