Iraqi President to Pursue Talks with US on Iran

AS12345TD7.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Iraqi president Jalal Al Talabani is in the United States to receive medical treatment, but he will make time during his journey to follow up secret talks with American officials on the Iranian nuclear issue, sources from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, headed by Al Talabani, said.

The sources said that the escalating Iranian nuclear issue since Iran’s response on western incentives to stop uranium enrichment may push President Al Talabani into further talks with the Americans.

Fouad Massoum, a prominent Kurdish leader who is close to Talabani, told Gulf News Iraqi leaders have always tried to bridge the gap between Iran and the US and they have succeeded in the past.

“The goal is to support security in Iraq, to create an atmosphere inducive to dialogue between Iran and the US on issues of interest to the region, because the security of the region serves the security of Iraq,” he said.

But some Iraqi politicians have different views.

“I am among those who accompanied Vice-President Adel Abdul Mahdi to Iran on many of his visits. The goal of these visits was to bring the position of Iran and the US closer and to encourage dialogue between the two sides on the nuclear question. After taking part in this, I think Iraq should not be part of any mediation because the political and security situation in Iraq does not allow effective mediation,” Hassan Al Shamri, a leader of the Shiite Virtue Party, told Gulf News.

Faced with the possibility that Iraqi political leaders might not be effective in influencing the Iranian side, some interested parties in the Shiite city of Najaf, where the supreme Shiite authority Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani is based, raised the possibility that Shiite clerics in Iraq should talk to Shiite clerics in Iran so that any Iraqi moves toward mediation between Iran and the US will be accepted by the Iranian government.

“Iraqi leaders, headed by President Al Talabani sent envoys to Al Sistani in the previous months and asked him for support in resolving the Iranian nuclear question with the Americans. I think Talabani and other Iraqi officials realized … the need to talk directly to clerics in Iran who have a strong influence on politics in Iran,” Mahdi Al Shubani, a Shiite researcher in Najaf, said.

Iran and the United States are locked in a standoff over Iran’s progress in the civilian nuclear technology. Washington and its Western allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, while they have never presented any corroborative document to substantiate their allegations. Iran denies the charges and insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.

Despite the rules enshrined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entitling every member state, including Iran, to the right of uranium enrichment, Tehran is now under three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West’s illegitimate calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment.

Tehran has dismisses West’s demands as politically tainted and illogical, stressing that sanctions and pressures merely consolidate Iranians’ national resolve to continue the path.

Iran has also insisted that it would continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhoveyn as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.

Tehran says that it considers its nuclear case closed as it has come clean of IAEA’s questions and suspicions about its past nuclear activities.

Yet, the United States has remained at loggerheads with Iran over the independent and home-grown nature of Tehran’s nuclear technology, which gives the Islamic Republic the potential to turn into a world power and a role model for other third-world countries. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

Washington’s push for additional UN penalties contradicts the report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head – one in November and the other one in February – which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seems to be completely irrational.

The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran’s cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran’s nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.

Political observers believe that Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran has lost steam due to the growing international vigilance, specially following the latest IAEA and US intelligence reports.

US President George W. Bush finished a tour of the Middle East in winter to gain the consensus of his Arab allies to unite against Iran.

But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush’s allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.

Many world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure against Iran unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports, stressing that Tehran’s case should be normalized and returned to the UN nuclear watchdog due to the Islamic Republic’s increased cooperation with the agency.

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