US tells Iran to stop backing Iraq militias
The United States urged Iran on Monday to stop supporting militias in Iraq but described the two countries' most high-profile meeting in almost 30 years as positive.
The meeting in Baghdad between the US and Iranian ambassadors to Iraq covered only sectarian violence in Iraq and did not touch on Iran's controversial nuclear program, the most contentious issue in US-Iranian relations.
The meeting, which began with a handshake, also ended without any agreement on a date for further talks.
But it marked a shift in the US policy of shunning almost all contact with Iranian officials since Washington severed formal diplomatic ties with Tehran in 1980, 14 months after Iran's Islamic Revolution and five months after Americans were seized in a hostage crisis at the US embassy in Tehran.
"The talks proceeded positively. What we need to see is Iranian action on the ground," Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to Iraq, told reporters. "Right now their actions are running at crossed purposes to their stated policy."
There was no immediate comment from the Iranian team led by Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, Iran's ambassador to Iraq. Crocker and Kazemi-Qomi met at the Iraqi prime minister's office, and shook hands before sitting across the table from each other.
"I laid out before the Iranians a number of our direct, specific concerns about their behavior in Iraq, their support for militias that are fighting both the Iraqi security forces and coalition forces," Crocker said.
"The fact (is) that a lot of the explosives and ammunitions that are used by these groups are coming in from Iran ... Such activities ... need to cease and ... we would be looking for results," he added.