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. Nuclear issue off limits in US-Iraq talks: Iran
TEHRAN, May 20 (AFP) May 20, 2007
Iran said on Sunday its nuclear standoff with the West will be strictly off the agenda when Iranian officials hold rare talks this month with US diplomats in Baghdad over Iraq.

"We do not want there to be any connection between the nuclear talks and the discussions on Iraq," foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters.

"If there is someone who wants to connect the nuclear issue with Iraq then this is something that we do not want," he added.

US and Iranian envoys are to meet in Baghdad on May 28 for talks on Iraqi security, three days ahead of the latest encounter between Iran's nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana to break the deadlock in the nuclear crisis.

Iran's leaders have repeatedly said they are ready for full negotiations with the United States, but only if Washington changes its position towards the Islamic republic which it accuses of sponsoring terrorism.

"As we have said, we will not have negotiations with the United States unless they rectify their position," said Hosseini.

He declined to say whether the May 28 meeting on Iraq would be followed by other encounters. "Let the first session convene, do not make speculation and we will see what happens."

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last week that Iran would merely use the talks with US diplomats over Iraq to remind Washington of its "occupiers' duty" in the conflict-torn country.

The United States accuses Iran of seeking nuclear weapons and wants Tehran to freeze sensitive uranium enrichment operations immediately. Iran says its atomic drive is peaceful and that it has every right to the full fuel cycle.

US-Iran relations have been frozen since 1980 after radical students stormed the American embassy in Tehran in the wake of the country's Islamic revolution and held its diplomats hostage for 444 days.

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