WASHINGTON (AP) – President Bush’s top foreign policy adviser said Friday that Iran’s new willingness to talk about Iraq with the United States is probably a ploy designed to “divert pressure and divert attention” from international concern that Tehran wants a nuclear bomb.

The United States accuses Iran of using a civilian nuclear program as a cover to build nuclear weapons, an allegation Tehran denies. The U.N. Security Council is expected to discuss Iran’s nuclear program this month, with Washington pressing for penalties.

The Bush administration views Tehran’s acceptance of an American offer to talk about Iraq, made months ago, as an indication that Iran is feeling the international heat, national security adviser Steven J. Hadley said.

“What is interesting is that the Iranians would choose now, at this moment, in such a very public way, to embrace this idea and try to expand it to a negotiation about a broader set of issues,” Hadley said.

“The concern, therefore, is that it is simply a device by the Iranians to try and divert pressure that they’re feeling in New York, to try and drive a wedge between the United States and the other countries with which we are working on the nuclear issue and, if you will, divert pressure and divert attention.”

Hadley added: “Obviously, this is something that we and those who are working with us on these issues will not let happen.”

The secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Larijani, said Thursday that Iran would discuss Iraq directly with the United States. Washington has accused Tehran of meddling in Iraqi politics and of supporting armed militias in Iraq by sending men and weapons, such as components for the increasing lethal improvised explosive devices, across the border.


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