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U.S., Iran Held Secret Talks

U.S., Iran Held Secret Talks

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CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- The United States and Iran held several meetings in Geneva, Switzerland, in an effort to ease friction between the two countries, a senior U.S. official said Monday.

The meetings focused on a wide range of issues, including postwar Iraq, in which the Bush administration is attempting to deter Iran from trying to influence the formation of a new government in Baghdad.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, during a news conference here after a meeting with Egyptian officials, said the administration opposes a fundamentalist regime as not being in the interest of the Iraqi people.

Powell echoed a similar statement weeks ago by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who said establishment of an Iranian-style fundamentalist government would be unacceptable to the United States.

The official, who spoke condition on anonymity, said the meetings in Geneva were technically under the auspices of the United Nations.

USA Today, reporting on the talks in Monday's editions, said the government of Iran was weighing the possibility of reopening diplomatic relations with the United States for the first time in nearly a quarter century.

The official Iranian news agency on Monday quoted Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi saying the discussions were about the work in Afghanistan and were conducted through the auspices of the Swiss Embassy in Tehran.

"During these negotiations, the issue of bilateral relations was not on the agenda and no negotiations were held in that regard," he was quoted as saying by the IRNA news agency in Tehran.

Powell, on a flight Saturday to the Middle East, said the United States has long been in communication with Iran through various channels. However, he said at the time that the administration was not trying to restore diplomatic relations with Tehran, which were broken off in 1979, when militants overran the U.S. embassy and took dozens of Americans as hostages.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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