IRAQ: FIRST MEETING OF IRAN AND U.S. OFFICIALS IN BAGHDAD
Baghdad, 7 April (AKI) - (by Ahmad Rafat) - Everything is ready in the Iraqi capital for an historic encounter, the first official and direct talks between Iranian and US representatives since November 1979, when a group of 'students' occupied the US embassy in Tehran and held 52 US diplomats as hostages for 444 days.The talks, originally scheduled for Saturday but at risk of postponement, will reportedly take place at the request of Abdel Aziz Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Iraq's biggest Shiite party.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the title of a novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, perhaps best epitomizes the meeting. Indeed, just a few hours before it was due to start, some reports alleged it might be postponed. In a report on Friday, Arab daily al-Hayat claimed the US ambassador to Baghdad, Zalmai Khalilzad, told one of its reporters that the meeting had been postponed indefinitely.
Khalilzad reportedly said officials should meet after the end of the Iraqi political crisis and when a new government is formed: "A meeting right now, at this time of crisis, could be seen as an attempt of America and the Islamic Republic to influence Iraqi political forces and negotiations for a new government."
The Iranian website Baztab, which is close to the Pasdaran, Iran's Guards of the Revolution, also published a statement on Friday morning saying that representatives of the two countries would meet on Monday rather than Saturday.
It is also unclear who will lead the Iranian delegation while Zalmai Khalizad, the US ambassador to Baghdad, will lead Washington's contingent.