Reuters reports: Iran denied a report that it is ready to help counter Islamic State insurgents in return for progress in negotiations with world powers over its nuclear program.
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 saying.
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. [Continue reading…]