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U.S. And Iran To Meet Again In Baghdad

Iran and the United States will meet in Baghdad on Monday to discuss ways to ease Iraq's security problems, Tehran's ambassador to Baghdad said.

The meeting — to discuss a committee Iran and the U.S. agreed to set up last month to deal with security issues — would be the third between the two countries in recent months over Iraq. The first round in May broke a 27-year diplomatic freeze following the 1979 Islamic Revolution and takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

"The two sides will exchange views on Monday concerning the details of a trilateral security committee," state-run television quoted Ambassador Hasan Kazemi Qomi as saying Saturday.

Qomi said Iraq would participate as well, and the group would focus on "the composition and agenda of the security committee."

He did not specify the officials who would attend the meeting, but indicated the discussions would be held at the "expert" level. The prior two rounds of talks included Qomi and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is expected to visit senior leaders in Iran on Wednesday.

The U.S. has accused Iran of fueling violence in Iraq and supporting militants there — Tehran has denied the allegations.

In Other Developments

  • Four American soldiers were killed during combat in Baghdad, including three in a single roadside bombing, the U.S. military said Friday.
  • A Marine Corps squad leader was sentenced to 15 years in prison Friday for unpremeditated murder in the killing of an Iraqi civilian during a fruitless search for an insurgent in the town of Hamdania. Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, 23, had been charged with premeditated murder but premeditation was stricken from the verdict that was returned by a military jury.
  • Britain said Thursday that it expects quick approval of a resolution that would expand the U.N. mandate in Iraq to promote political reconciliation, settle disputed internal boundaries, and plan for a national census. "I think it will get voted early next week," British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said. "There's no problem on it — it's straight forward." Britain circulated the resolution, co-sponsored by the United States, to other Security Council members Wednesday and council experts, who went over the text, were expected to meet again Friday.

    Iraqi Soccer Team Comes Home

    (ARAR/AFP/Getty)
    Iraqi lawmakers clapped and cheered for the country's Asian Cup soccer champs at a rare gathering Saturday during parliament's summer recess.

    Politicians posed for photos with the players at a hotel in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, but the celebration was closed to all but Iraq's political elite, with tight security preventing regular citizens from welcoming their soccer heroes home in person.

    Fawzi Akram, a lawmaker on parliament's sport committee, invited the players to a special legislative session in their honor "to praise them for what they have given for the sake of Iraq — its unity, people, land and sovereignty," he told the crowd.

    Akram did not say when the session would take place, but parliament is on summer recess until Sept. 4.

    Behind Iraqi lawmakers in coats and ties, a crowd of dozens of youth waved Iraqi flags and danced with jubilation. One raised a cell phone camera to snap a photo of the silver Asia Cup award, festooned with flowers. A band of drummers roamed the audience.

    The team arrived in Baghdad on Friday, minus three players — including captain Younis Mahmoud, the Sunni who scored the winning goal in the final, who remained abroad out of fear for his life. The limited homecoming came nearly a week after Iraq bested three-time champions Saudi Arabia 1-0 in the final cup game Sunday in Jakarta, Indonesia.

    Hundreds of Iraqi expatriates had turned out at victory celebrations during stops in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Amman, Jordan.

    "We met joyful Iraqis abroad but the feeling is different when we are here in Iraq. We are so happy that we managed to bring happiness to our people to make them forget, even if for just a few hours, their sorrows and pain," goalkeeper Nour Sabri told The Associated Press.

    Another player, midfielder Ali Abbas, said he hoped the soccer victory would help his country "achieve security and stability."

    "We will never forget our mothers here (in Iraq) who prayed for us to win. It's very important for us to bring happiness to Iraqis and to unite them — Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and all other sects," Abbas said.

    There was no parade or public fete in Baghdad, and all of those attending Saturday's celebration had to be vetted by security officials. Besides lawmakers, many were employees of the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

    "I feel sorrow that the soccer win is being exploited for political purposes, which is very clear from the site of the celebrations in the Green Zone," said Hamid Qais, the 30-year-old owner of an accessories store in Baghdad.

    Several hundred fans waved Iraqi flags and scuffled with police as they pushed through airport security to greet players as they stepped off a charter plane Friday evening.

    Police wielded truncheons against some in the crowd who were trying to touch Sabri, who was hoisted onto the teammates' shoulders and carried to a waiting bus, which took the team into central Baghdad for a meeting with the prime minister at his Green Zone office.

    Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gave each a diplomatic passport and put a wreath of flowers around their necks.

    Without public festivities, there was no repeat of the deadly bombings that marred celebrations after the team's semifinal victory last month.

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