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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 November 2007, 10:15 GMT
Iran agrees to Iraq talks with US
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki
Mr Mottaki said a date for the talks would be set in the near future
Iran says it has agreed to a US proposal for a new round of talks on improving security in Iraq.

The talks would be held in the near future, said Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

Mr Mottaki said Iran had agreed to the talks as part of a policy of helping the Iraqi people.

The talks have yet to be confirmed by Washington but if they go ahead they will be the fourth round of discussions between the US and Iran over Iraq.

"The Swiss Embassy in Tehran has handed over to Iran a message from the US government for a new round of talks concerning Iraq," Mr Mottaki told reporters on Monday.

Switzerland looks after US interests in Tehran in the absence of a US mission.

Mr Mottaki said that a date for the talks, to be held in Iraq, would be announced in the near future.

No agreement

Three rounds of talks between US and Iranian officials have already taken place this year.

US ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Kazemi Qomi held landmark face-to-face talks in May and July, the highest level public contacts between the two countries for 27 years.

Senior officials from both countries also met in Baghdad in August. But each round of talks has ended without agreement or any clear signs of progress.

The two sides have made mutual accusations over who is responsible for the violence in Iraq.

Iran says that the US "occupying forces" are to blame, while the US accuses Iran of backing Shia militias and providing armour-piercing bombs for attacks on US vehicles.

But the release by the US military of several Iranian diplomats who were being held in Iraq seems to have improved the atmosphere between the two sides, says the BBC's John Leyne in Tehran.

And while the discussions are only supposed to be about Iraq, there are officials in both Teheran and Washington who are keen to maintain a dialogue even as relations deteriorate over the issue of Iran's nuclear programme.

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