‘Iran ready to tackle Islamic State militants in Iraq’

Zarif says Iran first wants progress in nuclear talks before any action

PARIS/DUBAI – Iran is ready to do something to help tackle Islamic State insurgents in Iraq but first wants progress in negotiations with world powers over its nuclear programme, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

France, one of the six nations in nuclear talks with Iran, said earlier it wanted Arab states, Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to coordinate a comprehensive response against the Islamic State, whose militant forces control large parts of Syria and Iraq.

“If we agree to do something in Iraq, the other side in the negotiations will need to do something in return,” Zarif said in remarks late on Wednesday carried by state news agency IRNA. “All sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear activities should be lifted in return for its help in Iraq,” he said.

The insurgency threatening to tear apart Iraq has alarmed both Iran and the United States, which have had no diplomatic relations since soon after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Tehran. Iran has offered to cooperate with the US on stabilising Iraq, which like Iran has a majority Shia population, but Washington has responded cautiously.

Western officials have repeatedly said that they do not want to mix the nuclear dossier with events elsewhere in the region. “If we agree to help in Iraq, the other party (the West) should also do something in return,” the semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Zarif as saying. “It is still not clear what we should do in Iraq and what they (the other party) should do in return and this is the difficult part.”

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius urged Iran to be part of any coordinated action against the Islamic State but said that the Iraq and nuclear issues should be dealt with independently. “We shouldn't exchange one thing for another. While it seems indispensable that Iran participates (in an Iraq conference), it's not because it participates that we are going to say the Iran nuclear problem is resolved,” said Fabius, whose country has traditionally maintained a tough stance in the Iran talks.

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