US considering talking to Iran & Syria


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

US 'open to Iran talks on Iraq'

The White House has indicated it will consider talking to Iran and Syria about 
the future of Iraq.

Former US Secretary of State James Baker, who heads the Iraq Study Group, is 
leading a delegation to the White House for talks with President Bush.

The cross-party panel, due to give its recommendations by the end of the year, 
is believed to favour renewing contacts with Tehran and Damascus.

The White House chief-of-staff has said Mr Bush will look at all the options.

Speaking on ABC's This Week programme, Josh Bolten said "a fresh approach" was 
clearly needed on Iraq.

Asked if he favoured the idea of including Iraq's neighbours, Iran and Syria, in
discussions, Mr Bolten said all options would be considered.

In a keynote speech in London, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair will call for Iran 
and Syria to be more involved in efforts to secure peace in the Middle East.

Phased withdrawal

Iraq was a key factor in the Republican defeat in mid-term polls and US defence 
chief Donald Rumsfeld's resignation.

Senior Democrats have called for a phased pullout of US troops.

"We have to tell Iraqis that the open-ended commitment is over," said Carl 
Levin, the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

He said he wanted phased troop withdrawals beginning in a few months and he said
some Republican senators were preparing to back him.

Mr Blair will speak to the Iraq Study Group via video link on Tuesday.

He will be making his speech in London's financial centre on Monday evening.

An aide said Mr Blair would "make clear to Syria and Iran the basis on which 
they can help the peaceful development of the Middle East rather than hinder it;
and the consequences of not doing so".

The Syrian ambassador to the US, Imad Moustapha, told the BBC his government 
would be glad to play a role in helping to stabilise the situation in Iraq - as 
long as the Iraqis wanted it.

But he said the US first had to accept its policy in Iraq had failed.

Mr Moustapha said if Iraqis realised other Arab countries were supporting their 
peace process, it would serve to calm political tensions.

The Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan US task force asked by Congress to examine 
the effectiveness of policy in Iraq, reportedly thinks that "staying the course"
is an untenable long-term strategy.

It is said to have been looking at two options, both of which would amount to a 
reversal of the Bush administration's stance.

One is the phased withdrawal of US troops, and the other is to increase contact 
with Syria and Iran to help stop the fighting.

More than 2,800 US troops have died in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003.

The US military confirmed that three US soldiers had been killed in fighting in 
Iraq's Anbar province on Saturday.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2006/11/13 07:55:45 GMT


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