AFP: The United States on Monday ruled out raising the fate of four Iranian Americans held in Iran during upcoming rare bilateral talks with Tehran. WASHINGTON, July 23, 2007 (AFP) – The United States on Monday ruled out raising the fate of four Iranian Americans held in Iran during upcoming rare bilateral talks with Tehran.
The State Department said that the second meeting on Tuesday between its Ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, and Tehran’s envoy Hassan Kazemi Qomi in Baghdad would be solely on the security situation in Iraq.
A first ice-breaking meeting between the two sides on May 28 did not achieve any major breakthrough and was also strictly limited to the security situation in Iraq.
“This is a channel in which two sides can engage on issues related to Iraq, the primary focus is on Iraq security,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.
Aside from Washington’s allegations that Iran was fueling the insurgency in Iraq, tensions continue to boil between the two arch-rivals.
The United States seems particularly concerned about the fate of four Iranian American scholars and activists held by Tehran.
Tehran claimed scholars Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh, who were arrested in May, had exposed in television statements a US plot to overthrow Iran’s Islamic authorities through a peaceful “soft revolution.”
The US State Department expressed concern that coercion was used to force the two detainees to make the statements.
In the absence of diplomatic relations between the United States and Iran, Washington has via the Swiss authorities called for the release of the four detainees.
Asked whether Washington would miss a rare opportunity by not raising the fate of the four Iranian Americans at Tuesday’s meeting, McCormack said, “I think it is a missed opportunity for the Iranians not to allow these people to leave over the past two months.
“That’s where the missed opportunity is,” he said. “We have the Swiss to raise (their) case.”
Iran has also pushed the United States to release five Iranians detained in Iraq. The US military alleges the five are senior members of the al-Quds Force, but Iran says they are diplomats with valid credentials and permission from the Iraqi government.