US Secretary of State urges Iran to attend Mideast meeting on Iraq

( LatWp ) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on Iran not to boycott a conference next week of the major countries and parties with a stake in the future of Iraq, at which the United States and Iran would have an opportunity for senior-level talks.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran is still ``reviewing'' whether it will attend. Yet in a reflection of the sometimes bizarre relations between Tehran and Washington, he also called for direct talks with President Bush. ``Last year I announced readiness for a televised debate over global issues with his excellency Mr. Bush, and now we announce that I am ready to negotiate with him about bilateral issues as well as regional and international issues,'' Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by an Iranian television channel. He made similar comments in an interview with Reuters.

U.S. and Middle East officials dismissed the offer as grandstanding.

In an interview with the Financial Times published Monday, Rice said it would be a ``missed opportunity'' if Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki does not join counterparts from five neighboring states--as well as the United States, the European Union and the United Nations--at the conference in Egypt. Senior Iranian officials have indicated Mottaki might not attend, in part because the United States has refused to release five Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers captured in northern Iraq in January.

The standoff comes when the Bush administration is seeking regional help to stabilize Iraq, as even top U.S. officers say the new security plan for Baghdad is having mixed results. Iran is particularly important because it has aided or armed Iraq's major Shiite political parties and militias as well as Kurdish parties. U.S. officials recently charged that Tehran is also providing weaponry to Sunni fighters.

Rice is scheduled to attend the conference in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheik May 3 and 4, as are Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other top Iraqi officials.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari is expected to fly to Iran this week to make the case for Iran to send senior representation to the meeting, a senior Iranian official said Monday. A decision by Mottaki not to attend--or to send only lower-level diplomats--could undermine efforts to win real involvement by key neighbors.

Tehran feels affronted on several counts, which will all factor into its decision, Iranian officials said Monday.

The regime in Tehran thinks that it was in part duped into attending a lower-level meeting of the same parties last month in Baghdad, in which it agreed to participate after Iraqi officials said they expected the five Iranians to be released shortly, Iranian sources said. The Bush administration overruled a recommendation from the State Department to release the five intelligence operatives picked up in a raid on Iran's liaison office in Irbil.

The Iranian captives, known as the Irbil-5, now have the same status as about 250 other foreigners captured in Iraq. Their cases are not eligible for review until July, U.S. officials say.

Iran is also unhappy because it was excluded from final consultations on the venue and agenda of the meeting, even though it has more political sway in Iraq than any neighbor, Iranian sources said. But Tehran also does not want to be seen as obstructing neighbors' efforts on Iraq, Iranian officials said. The compromise might be to send a lower-level official , sources added.

In the interview, Rice also said the United States is open to discussing any topic with Iran if it will agree to suspend the enrichment of uranium, which can be used to develop nuclear energy as well as nuclear weapons. If Tehran complies with a U.N. demand to suspend enrichment and comes to the negotiating table, ``I will come to the table, too,'' Rice said. ``It would reverse 27 years of policy. We can talk about anything.''

Khazar Consortium opens tender for purchase of cartridges, toners
Khazar Consortium opens tender for purchase of cartridges, toners
Turkmenistan’s State Concern to sign contract with Chinese company for drilling pipes purchase
Turkmenistan’s State Concern to sign contract with Chinese company for drilling pipes purchase
Turkmennebit opens tender for purchase of various equipment
Turkmennebit opens tender for purchase of various equipment
Loading Bars
Deutsche Bank starts probe in relation to engagement with some clients
5 terrorists killed in NW Pakistan
Saudi sovereign fund to double assets in next five years to $1.07 trillion - Crown Prince
Azerbaijan completes repair and construction work on roads of Samukh district
Bahar Azadi gold coin price rebounds in Iran
Iranian Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale on January 25
Weekly review of events in agricultural sector of Azerbaijan
Khazar Consortium opens tender for purchase of cartridges, toners
Georgian exports of knitwear to Turkey decreases
Turkmenistan’s State Concern to sign contract with Chinese company for drilling pipes purchase
Israeli embassy welcomes scheduled resumption of flights to Georgia
Bazargan border reopened after unprecedented snow
Cobalt becomes most produced car in Uzbekistan last year
Turkey registers more than 5 200 new coronavirus cases
Mexican authorities recover 19 bodies, some shot and burned, in remote area
Israel bans international flights to curb coronavirus spread
Bulk of construction work completed in Uzbekistan falls on private sector
Turkey to receive 6.5 million doses of China's vaccine next week
Dutch police arrest alleged Asian drug syndicate kingpin
Georgia reports 546 coronavirus cases, 1 456 recoveries, 17 deaths
Germany ready to assist Kyrgyzstan in implementing green economy policies
President Rouhani: Iran's economic ties entering new phase
UK detects 77 cases of South African COVID variant, nine of Brazilian
Azerbaijan shows footage from Ashaghi Aybasanli village of Fuzuli district (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Implementation of drilling operations continue in Iran's oil fields
China sees fall in new COVID-19 cases amid strict local lockdowns
Iran's NIDC declares number of drilled oil & gas wells
Iran unveils details of exports via Bilasuvar border checkpoint
Uzbekistan to launch charter flights from Russia to Tashkent
Chinese smartphone maker discloses amount invested in opening factories in Turkey
Buy/sell operations at Iran Mercantile Exchange revealed
Georgia's import of tubes, pipes, hollow profiles from Turkey increases
Body of Azerbaijani citizen killed on Turkish ship to be sent to his homeland soon - Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry
Israel to start COVID-19 vaccination for high school students
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for January 24
Azerbaijan confirms 568 more COVID-19 recoveries
Portugal votes for new president at height of pandemic
Expert talks promoting import of electric and hybrid vehicles to Azerbaijan
Turkmennebit opens tender for purchase of various equipment
Azerbaijan shows footage from Jomerd village of Kalbajar district (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Sales of goods at Iran Mercantile Exchange spike
Iran reveals amount of loans issued to manufacturing companies
Georgia increases export of marine mammals, fish fats, oils and their fractions to Turkey
S&P talks about Azerbaijan's GDP growth in 2022-2024
Turkey set to receive second vaccine shipment from China soon
Russia records over 21,100 daily coronavirus cases
Weekly review of Azerbaijani precious metals market
Kazakhstan's exports volume to Georgia increases multifold
Azerbaijan's strategic foreign exchange reserves increase year on year
Iran announces volume of sprat caught in Caspian Sea
Azerbaijan shares footage from Ashaghi Veysalli village of Fuzuli district (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Consumption of steel products in Iran increases
3 injured as blast hits vehicle in Kabul
Weekly review of Azerbaijani currency market
Georgia reveals data on exports of semi-finished products of iron or non-alloy steel to Turkey
Iranian companies join UN CTCN
Kazakhstan’s daily COVID-19 case count stands at 1,584
Weekly review of main events in Azerbaijan's transport sector
UK to quarantine visitors from nations with high COVID-19 risk
China rescues first person from Shandong gold mine: state media
Over 2 mln coronavirus cases registered in Colombia
Israel reports 4,550 new COVID-19 cases, 593,578 in total
Iran's Marun Oil & Gas Production Company manufactures certain equipment
Iran to begin COVID-19 vaccinations in coming weeks: President Rouhani
France registers 23,924 new COVID-19 cases, 230 deaths in one day
Turkmenenergo to sign new contracts with foreign companies
7.0-magnitude quake hits South Shetland Islands: CENC
Turkey reports 5,856 new COVID-19 cases, 2,424,328 in total
After first phone call, UK PM Johnson looks forward to working with Biden
UK records another 33,552 coronavirus cases, 1,348 deaths
WHO reports over 600,000 new daily cases of COVID-19
Azerbaijani, Turkish FMs discuss pirate attack on ship
Top Spanish general resigns over allegations of vaccination queue-jumping
Pirates hijack Turkish ship off coast of Guinea, one person killed
BMB Trade Group and Uzbek Saffron Research Center discuss saffron cultivation and processing
Trend TV shares video report from plundered during Armenian occupation Azerbaijani Zangilan
Belarus, Kazakhstan seek closer cooperation in exchange trade
Management of Azerbaijan's State Oil Company being improved - Decree
New staff of Azerbaijani SOCAR's Supervisory Board approved
Georgia's external merchandise trade down 14.8% in 2020
Turkey halts flights from Brazil due to new COVID-19 variant
Gas pressure in Iran's South Pars gas field projected to decrease
Iran's gas processing potential to increase
Portugal holds presidential election as COVID-19 cases spiral
Italy reports 488 coronavirus deaths and 13,331 new cases
Italy to rethink vaccine roll out if supply problems persist
US broadcaster, journalist Larry King dies aged 87
Russia signs deal with Turkey on vaccine production
Azerbaijani MoD issues footage from Kalbajar district's Gamishli village (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Manat exchange rate against dollar to remain unchanged - Standard & Poor's
Bahar Azadi gold coin price again falling in Iran
Azerbaijan considering issues of regional schools damaged during Karabakh War
Iranian Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale on January 24
State subsidy to increase from 10 to 15 GEL per 50 kg of wheat flour in Georgia
Goods transit via Iran's Bileh Savar on rise
Tax authorities of Kyrgyzstan, Russia discuss launch of joint project
Japan's COVID-19 death toll exceeds 5,000 as total cases surpass 360,000
Indian gov't confirms outbreak of bird flu
Azerbaijani president expresses condolences to Ukranian counterpart
Bulgaria to ease some COVID-19 rules, restaurants closed for now
All news