Iran wants to start direct talks with the U.S. over its nuclear program, The New York Times reported Friday. Western officials told the newspaper on Thursday that Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, informed the Obama administration this month of Iran’s interest in direct talks, and said that Iraq was prepared to facilitate the negotiations.
Maliki’s offer came in early July, during a meeting with U.S. officials. Al-Maliki said that the offer was made by officials connected to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but he would not disclose precisely whom he was dealing with on the Iranian side. American analysts quoted in the report said they could not confirm if the request came from Iranian officials or if it had been approved by Khamenei.
The Times quoted Patrick Ventrell, a State Department spokesman, as saying: “Iraq is a partner of the United States and we are in regular conversations with Iraqi officials about a full range of issues of mutual interest, including Iran. As we have repeatedly said, we are open to direct talks with Iran in order to resolve the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.”