Iran says U.S. talks delayed for technical reasons

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday technical reasons were behind the delay in talks between Iranian and U.S. officials on Iraq and denied new U.S. charges that Tehran was stoking violence in its neighbor.

Tehran on Thursday postponed what would have been a fourth round of talks. The move has prompted Washington to question Tehran’s commitment to dialogue.

Washington accuses Iran of destabilizing Iraq. Tehran blames the U.S. occupation for the unrest. David Satterfield, the U.S. State Department’s Iraq coordinator, said on Friday Iran was “intent on continuing to promote violence within Iraq”.

The U.S.-Iranian security talks are one of the few forums in which officials from the two bitter foes have direct contact. Diplomatic ties between Washington and Tehran have been frozen for almost three decades.

“The postponement of Iran-U.S. talks has been due to technical reasons, it has nothing to do with any other issues,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said in a news conference. The comments were carried and translated by Iran’s English-language Press TV.

He said an exact date for talks would be announced later.

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Washington has used the talks to urge Iran to stop giving weapons and training to Shi’ite militias in Iraq, including armor-piercing bombs known as explosively formed penetrators that have killed hundreds of U.S. troops. Iran denies any role.

U.S. officials said on Friday a U.S. Treasury official met Iranian representatives in Paris on January 24 as part of a gathering to discuss “terror financing”, in a departure from Washington’s usual policy. Iran has played down the meeting.

“This is an international forum and the U.S. is also a member of that international forum. So no direct talks were held,” Hosseini said.

Iranian Economy Minister Davoud Danesh-Jafari said of the meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that it was not a “special meeting” or at a senior level.

In response to Satterfield’s comments, Hosseini said Iran “has had no hand in the unrest in Iraq, there are no pieces of evidence in this regard”.

Hosseini said preparations for the visit to Iraq by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, expected on March 2, were going ahead. He did not give details.

Writing by Edmund Blair; editing by Philippa Fletcher