Baghdad keys in Tehran: Zebari says Iraq redy to host 5+1 meeting
BAGHDAD - Iran wants crucial nuclear talks with world powers to take place in Baghdad instead of Istanbul as has been mooted, according to a statement from Iraq welcoming the proposal.
An "Iranian delegation expressed the desire for Iraq to host the international meeting on the Iranian nuclear file of the five permanent members of the (UN) Security Council plus Germany" in Baghdad, said the statement posted on the foreign ministry's website late Tuesday.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced last weekend that the talks are due to take place April 13 and 14 in Istanbul.
But EU diplomats cautioned that the venue was still under discussion, and Russia said on Monday that "the date and the place of the meeting have not been definitively set."
The negotiations are seen as an important opportunity to lower tensions over Iran's nuclear programme that have been coloured by threats from Israel and the United States of military action.
The last round of talks between Iran and the so-called P5+1 group was held in Istanbul in January 2011 and ended in failure. Geneva hosted the round before that in late 2010.
Washington and its allies believe Iran's nuclear activities include a drive towards atomic weapons capability and have imposed a raft of sanctions to punish Tehran.
Iran denies there is any military component to its programme and says it will not bow to sanctions pressure.
Iran's deputy nuclear negotiator Ali Baqeri, met Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari on Tuesday night, the ministry statement said, adding that Iran's ambassador to Baghdad also attended.
"The (Iraqi) foreign minister welcomed the Iranian proposal" for Baghdad to host the talks, it said.
Zebari expressed "the readiness of Iraq to host the meeting, and confirmed that he will undertake the necessary contacts with the relevant parties on the proposal," it said.
Iraq hosted a landmark Arab summit that brought together 10 heads of state in Baghdad on March 29, after two preceding days of ministerial talks.
Two attacks occurred in Baghdad despite heavy-handed security measures, but the meeting was hailed as a success by Iraqi leaders and observers.