U.S., Iranian Ambassadors Meet in Baghdad

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The U.S. and Iranian ambassadors to Baghdad met Tuesday to discuss ways to bring stability to Iraq, coming together for the second time since May, when they came together for the first time to end a nearly three-decade diplomatic freeze.

The talks, reported to have been heated, went off despite rising tensions over Washington's allegations that Tehran is fueling the violence in Iraq.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki opened the meeting with a statement welcoming the delegates at his headquarters in the heavily fortified Green Zone. Al-Maliki said "terrorism hits all Iraqi population sectors, with no exception," in his address, according to Iraqi state TV.

The meeting was closed to the media, but photos released by the Iraqi leader's office showed the participants sitting at three long tables for each delegation linked in triangular fashion and covered with white cloths.

Al-Maliki was joined by Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, while the U.S. delegation was headed by Ambassador Ryan Crocker and the Iranians by Ambassador Hasan Kazemi Qomi.

An Iraqi official who was present at the meeting room said Crocker and Qomi were involved in a heated exchange early in the talks.

Crocker confronted the Iranians with charges that Tehran was supporting Shiite militiamen killing U.S. troops, providing them with weapons and training, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to disclose the information.

Qomi dismissed the allegations, saying the Americans had no proof, the official said.

The detention of four American-Iranians in Iran has deepened tensions between Washington and Tehran, whose relations already were strained over Iran's controversial nuclear program and its support for radical militant groups such as Lebanon's Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas and by U.S. military maneuvers in the Persian Gulf.

But State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Iraq was the only issue on the agenda.

"This is an opportunity for direct engagement on issues solely related to Iraq," McCormack told reporters in Washington on Monday. "We are going to raise the need for Iran to match its actions with its words in seeking strategic stability in Iraq."

McCormack said Iran has not taken any steps to help bring about a stable Iraq, a goal he said Iran professes to share with the United States.

"We'll see, if, as a result of these engagements, they will change their behavior."

The first round of Iran-U.S. talks, on May 28 in Baghdad, broke a 27-year diplomatic freeze following the 1979 Islamic Revolution and U.S. Embassy takeover in Tehran.

Meanwhile, The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Tuesday it will send a team of inspectors early next week to a disputed Iranian heavy water reactor - a key step in efforts to allay concerns over the country's nuclear program.

Olli Heinonen, deputy director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters after meeting with a delegation from Iran that the team would head Monday or Tuesday to the complex under construction outside the industrial city of Arak.

Arak will produce plutonium once it is completed sometime in the next decade, and the U.N. Security Council has demanded that Iran stop construction.

From NPR Reports and The Associated Press

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