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US Ready 'in Principle' to Talk with Iranians on Iraq
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The United States is ready "in principle" to have direct talks with Iran on Tehran's role in Iraq, a senior State Department official in charge of overseeing Iraq policy said in Washington on Wednesday.

"With respect to Iran, we are prepared, in principle, to discuss Iranian activities in Iraq," David Satterfield, senior advisor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and coordinator for Iran, told the Senate committee Armed Services Committee.

"The timing of such a direct dialogue is one we still have under review."

"We are prepared, in principle, for a direct dialogue with Iran. The timing of that dialogue is one that we are considering," Satterfield said.

Satterfield made the remarks after State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Monday that the Bush administration has stopped its effort to seek direct contacts with Iran on ways to ease unrest in Iraq, saying that channel of communications "didn't work out."

"We went through a period where there was an offer of that channel of communications," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, referring to contacts between the US ambassador in Baghdad and Iranian authorities.

"It didn't work out for a variety of different reasons," McCormack said of the contacts between Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and the Iranians, which had been authorized by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

"If in the future we want to avail ourselves of that channel, then that is certainly a possibility, but I don't think that right now that is something that is under consideration," McCormack said.

Prio to McCormack's remarks, US President George W. Bush told reporters at the White House that Washington will not have direct talks with Tehran unless it suspends its nuclear program.

Iran refuses US demand and insists its nuclear program is solely for civilian energy purposes.

US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad was authorized in May 2006 to discuss Iraq with officials in Iran, which Washington has accused backing anti-US insurgents in Iraq.

Washington and Tehran have severed diplomatic relations since Iranian students stormed in 1979 the US Embassy in Tehran and held its occupants hostage for 444 days to protest Washington's refusal to hand over the toppled shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

(Xinhua News Agency November 16, 2006)

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