American, Iran Meet
By SCHEHEREZADE FARAMARZI
Associated Press
March 10, 2007 posted 3:18 pm EST


BAGHDAD (AP) - American and Iranian envoys spoke directly to each other about how to end Iraq's violence, meeting at an international conference in Baghdad and opening limited but potentially significant contacts that could ease their nearly 28-year diplomatic freeze.

The envoys did not meet privately, and discussions were confined to one session during the conference on Iraq's stability, but the conctact appeared to offer room for further interaction between the two nations - which find themselves increasingly drawn toward common issues in Iraq as the nation's most influential allies.

The American ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, said he exchanged views with Iranian delegates "directly and in the presence of others" at the gathering led by Iraq's neighbors and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

He declined to give details of the contacts - calling them only "constructive and businesslike and problem-solving" - but noted that he raised American assertions that Shiite militias receive weapons and assistance across the border from Iran.

The chief Iranian envoy, Abbas Araghchi, said he restated his country's demands for a clear timetable for the withdrawal of American-led forces, which he insisted have made Iraq a magnet for extremists from across the Muslim world.

"Violence in Iraq is good for no country in the region," said Mr. Araghchi, deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs, at a post-meeting news conference.

Mr. Araghchi said he did not meet privately with Mr. Khalilzad, but that all dialogue "was within the framework of the meeting" - which he said had "very good interaction by all the delegations."

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