France, one of the six nations in nuclear talks with Tehran, said
on Wednesday it wanted Arab states, Iran and the five permanent
members of the U.N. Security Council to coordinate a comprehensive
response against Islamic State, whose militant forces control large
parts of Syria and Iraq.
The Sunni Islamist insurgency threatening to tear apart Iraq has
alarmed both Shi'ite Muslim Iran and the United States, which have
had no diplomatic relations since soon after the 1979 Islamic
Revolution in Tehran.
On Thursday a story from the official Iranian News Agency (IRNA)
cited by several news organizations including Reuters reported
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif as saying that if Iran agreed to “do
something in Iraq, the other side in the negotiations will need to
do something in return".
"All the sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear activities
should be lifted in return for its help in Iraq," it quoted him as
But later on Thursday IRNA reported foreign ministry spokeswoman
Marzieh Afkham as dismissing “reports by some news agencies about
Iran and U.S. cooperation in Iraq”.
“These reports are a misinterpretation of the foreign ministerˈs
remarks and are 'totally baseless',” IRNA reported her as saying.
IRNA did not elaborate. On Friday, the story on IRNA's website still
showed remarks attributed to Zarif but the word Iraq had been
omitted. A similar report by the semi-official Mehr news agency
about Zarif’s comments continued to cite him mentioning Iraq.
Iran has offered to cooperate with the United States on stabilizing
Iraq, which like Iran has a majority Shi'ite population, but
Washington has responded cautiously.
Western officials have repeatedly said they do not want to mix the
nuclear dossier with events elsewhere in the region.
In Washington, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said
she understood that Zarif’s comments did not refer to Iraq and
instead referred to Arak, the site of a facility that is one of the
topics under discussion in nuclear negotiations between Tehran and
six world powers.
Iranian officials could not immediately be reached for comment on
whether Zarif had mentioned Arak or not.
Harf told reporters: “We understand that the Iranian foreign
minister -- and you’re never going to believe this -- quoted in the
story as referring to Iraq the country was actually referring to
Arak, the Iranian nuclear facility. We’ve looked at the language a
couple of times, actually, and think he was not linking in that
specific quote fighting ISIS in Iraq to lifting of Western
sanctions. He was talking about making progress on Arak, the nuclear
facility, to lifting of Western sanctions.”
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French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius urged Iran on Wednesday to be
part of any coordinated action against Islamic State but said that
the Iraq and nuclear issues should be dealt with independently.
"We shouldn't exchange one thing for another. While it seems
indispensable that Iran participates (in an Iraq conference), it's
not because it participates that we are going to say the Iran
nuclear problem is resolved," said Fabius, whose country has
traditionally maintained a tough stance in the Iran talks.
"These are two problems of a different nature and it would be
dangerous to enter into a system where each side exchanges something
for another. So let's be careful about that."
The United States and some of its allies suspect Iran is using its
civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop atomic bombs. Iran
denies this, saying that it is enriching uranium solely for civilian
Six global powers and Iran failed to meet a July 20 deadline to
negotiate a comprehensive agreement under which Iran would curb its
nuclear activities in exchange for the easing of economic sanctions
that have crippled its economy.
The six - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United
States - have agreed to extend the deadline to reach a long-term,
overall agreement until Nov. 24.
They are set to hold a new round of talks with Iran ahead of next
month's U.N. General Assembly in New York.
(Reporting by William Maclean; Editing by Louise Ireland)
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