Iran proposes Baghdad as nuclear talks venue
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iran has approached Baghdad to host forthcoming talks with six world powers over its disputed nuclear program, Iraq said on Wednesday, apparently departing from plans for an Istanbul meeting following Iranian frictions with Turkey.
Iranian media quoted Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi as saying the talks could take place in Baghdad or China. He gave no further details.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the April 13-14 negotiations would take place in Istanbul, the first such meeting since January 2011 when the sides did not even manage to agree on an agenda.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari told Reuters an Iranian delegation proposed Baghdad for the talks during a visit to Iraq on Tuesday.
"The proposal came from them. We received a delegation from Iran ... Today we are inviting G5 plus one ambassadors to hand over a letter about the proposal," Zebari said.
A Western diplomat in Baghdad confirmed envoys had been called to Iraq's foreign ministry for a meeting on Wednesday.
There was no immediate reaction from the six powers - the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany - to the proposal to hold talks in Iraq.
Iraq's Shi'ite-led government is closely aligned with Iran in a region where Sunni Arab Gulf powers are jockeying for influence with Shi'ite power Tehran.
A senior Iranian figure recently spoke out against Turkey hosting the talks as once warm Iranian-Turkish relations have cooled in the past year over Turkey's hostility to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Iran's close Arab ally.
Turkey has demanded Assad halt a year-long crackdown on opponents in Syria and step down. Last month, Turkey also announced it would reduce the amount of oil it buys from Iran by 10 percent, ceding to U.S. pressure over Iran sanctions.
The United States and its allies suspect Tehran is covertly working on nuclear weapons and have imposed tough sanctions on Iran, including measures against its financial and energy sectors. Tehran says its nuclear activities are peaceful.
Tehran last month agreed to renewed talks with the five permanent members of the Security Council, as well as Germany, but said negotiations over the venue were ongoing.
Pulling back from years of war, Iraq last month hosted the Arab League summit for the first time in two decades, as part of Baghdad's push to return to the diplomatic stage in a region split along sectarian lines over the Syrian uprising and Western sanctions on Iran.
(Reporting by Patrick Markey; Editing by Jon Boyle)
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