Washington Prepared to Resume Contacts with Iran
October 28, 2003
WASHINGTON -- The United States said on Tuesday it was prepared to resume limited contacts with the Iranian government but relations would not improve until the Iranians share intelligence about al Qaeda members in Iran.
"We are prepared to engage in limited discussions with the government of Iran about areas of mutual interest as appropriate."
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said in testimony prepared for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"We have not, however, entered into any broad dialogue with the aim of normalizing relations," he added.
"We are prepared to meet again in the future, but only if that would serve U.S. interests," he said.
U.S. officials met several times with Iranian officials in Geneva earlier this year but the United States called off a meeting scheduled in May because it believed Iran was sheltering members of al Qaeda, the organization blamed for the September 2001 attacks on the United States.
In his prepared statement, Armitage did not explicitly link resuming contacts with progress on the al Qaeda dispute.
But he did link cooperation on al Qaeda with the future of relations between the two countries, which have not had diplomatic ties since soon after the revolution of 1979.
"Despite public statements that they would cooperate with other countries, the Iranians have refused repeated requests to turn over or share intelligence about all al Qaeda members and leaders they claim to have in custody," Armitage said.
"As the president (George W. Bush) made clear last week, Iran must change its course on this front: resolution of this issue would be an important step in U.S.-Iranian relations and we cannot move forward without this step," he added.
On Sunday Iran said it had given the names of extradited al Qaeda suspects to the U.N. Security Council but declined to give any details of detainees remaining within the country.
The Islamic republic has said that any al Qaeda suspects whose nationality could be identified would be tried in Iran.
It has ruled out handing over any al Qaeda members to the United States but says it would extradite some of those it has arrested to unspecified "friendly countries." http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=3706271