December 16, 2007 / 11:07 AM / 11 years ago

Iran says to discuss Iraq "terrorist groups" with U.S.

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran said on Sunday it wanted to discuss the activities of “terrorist groups” when it next holds talks with the United States about boosting security in Iraq.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini during a news conference in Tehran, February 12, 2007. Iran said on Sunday it wanted to discuss the activities of "terrorist groups" when it next holds talks with the United States about boosting security in Iraq. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini suggested that the fourth round of talks between the two old foes on ways to quell violence in Iraq may be held early next month but said no exact time had been set.

“When it comes to the topics to be covered we have activities of some terrorist groups to be included,” he said when asked about the People’s Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI), which has bases in Iraq.

The PMOI, blacklisted by the United States and European Union, began as a leftist-Islamist opposition to the late shah of Iran but fell out with Shi’ite clerics who took power after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The PMOI’s political wing — the National Council of Resistance of Iran — last week accused Iran of pursuing efforts to develop nuclear weapons. It dismissed as incomplete a U.S. intelligence report that the program was suspended in 2003.

Analysts say the group has little popular support in Iran because it joined Iraqi forces fighting Iran in the 1980s.

Iran also brands the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), also present in Iraq, as a terrorist group. PJAK is an offshoot of the Kurdish separatist movement, Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), that is fighting Turkey.

This year’s Iranian-U.S. talks on Iraq’s security situation eased a diplomatic freeze that lasted almost three decades, even though they are still embroiled in a row about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Iraqi and U.S. officials said in Baghdad on Friday that a meeting of a U.S.-Iranian committee set up to find ways to improve security in Iraq had been postponed from this week but that they were trying to find a new date later in December.

Washington accuses Iran of arming, funding and training Shi’ite Muslim militias in Iraq. Tehran blames the sectarian violence, which has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis, on the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Hosseini said a Foreign Ministry team was now in Baghdad.

“They are now talking to Iraqi officials and the objective is to get better results for these upcoming talks. We want Americans to be committed to these results,” he said. “I think these talks are very positive.”

“We believe that the Americans should hand over full authority to the Iraqi government and we would like to emphasize the fact that there must be a plan for the pullout of American forces from Iraq,” Hosseini said.

Reporting by Reza Derakhshi; Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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