The head of an influential foreign policy committee in Iran's parliament said the country does not want Turkey to host talks with world powers over Tehran's nuclear program, raising further questions today about whether negotiations can begin as scheduled next week.
The comments by Alaeddin Boroujerdi do not represent the final word by Iran's ruling system, but strongly suggest a growing impasse ahead of talks set to start April 13 between Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany.
Iran has balked at having the negotiations in Istanbul because of Turkey's escalating pressure on the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, a key Iranian ally.
Boroujerdi, head of the parliamentary committee for national security and foreign policy, supported Baghdad as a venue, one of several alternative sites floated by Iran in recent days.
Iraq's Shiite-led government has long-standing ties with Iran, and other sites mentioned by Iran--Syria, Lebanon or China--are also allies of Tehran.
"Iranian officials are not interested in Turkey as the host," Boroujerdi was quoted as saying by the independent Etemad newspaper.
Western officials have complained about Iran bargaining over the venue for this month's planned talks with world powers.
Boroujerdi's comments were published shortly after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged Iran to commit to nuclear negotiations as soon as possible, describing the time for a diplomatic solution as limited.
Clinton yesterday said the US wasn't interested "in talks for the sake of talks."