US, Iran talk on Iraq

By Xinhua

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Sharm el-Sheikh (Egypt) : Iran and the US held expert level talks on the sidelines of an international meeting on Iraqi security here despite Tehran's harsh words against Washington.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the US-Iran meeting took place Friday. He, however, added: "I don't know what happened during their meeting but I believe it is positive."

According to media reports, the meeting took place between US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Iranian deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi with the US State Department's Iraq coordinator David Satterfield also present.

"It was very limited, very short and it was on Iraq," said Crocker.

But senior Iranian official Manouchehr Mottaki harshly criticized the US-led occupation of Iraq, which he said "has worsened the situation in the war-torn country".

Speaking at a press conference, Mottaki said Iraq had gone through "very painful and difficult period where women and children were killed every day".

The US has accused Tehran of arming Shia militias and inciting anti-US attacks in Iraq. Iran denies any involvement in the violence.

Mottaki called for a timetable for US troop withdrawal from Iraq and the release of five Iranian civil servants captured by the US in Iraqi Kurdistan.