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National and world

June 16, 2014

U.S. open to talks with Iran over Iraq

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is willing to talk with Iran over deteriorating security conditions in Iraq and is not ruling out potential U.S.-Iranian military cooperation in stemming the advance of Sunni extremists, Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday.

The Pentagon, however, quickly tamped down speculation that the United States would coordinate or consult with Iran on any potential military intervention. It also flatly ruled out the idea of “joint military operations” with Iranian armed forces, which the U.S. has long accused of fomenting unrest and backing terrorism in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.

In an interview with Yahoo! News, Kerry said Washington is “open to discussions” with Tehran if the Iranians can help end the violence and take steps that would restore confidence in the Iraqi government. Asked about possible military cooperation with Iran, Kerry said he would “not rule out anything that would be constructive.” However, he stressed that any contacts with Iran would move “step-by-step.”

“We’re open to discussions if there is something constructive that can be contributed by Iran, if Iran is prepared to do something that is going to respect the integrity and sovereignty of Iraq and ability of the government to reform,” Kerry said.

On military cooperation, Kerry was cautious but not dismissive.

“At this moment, I think we need to go step-by-step and see what in fact might be a reality. But I would not rule out anything that would be constructive in providing real stability, a respect for the constitution, a respect for the election process and a respect for the ability of the Iraqi people to form a government that represents all the interests of Iraq,” he said. “We are open to any constructive process here that would minimize the violence.”

At the Pentagon, spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said there that while there may be discussions about regional security with the Iranians, those would not include military coordination.

“We are not planning to engage with Iran on military activities inside Iraq,” said Kirby.

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