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Iran-US encounter 'brief handshake'

Press TV - Washington unravels the mystery surrounding US-Iran talks at an international conference, saying that what was described as a 'cordial exchange' was in fact a mere 'handshake'.

US State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said on Wednesday that the American representative Richard Holbrooke exchanged a 'brief handshake' with the Iranian counterpart but stressed it was not a lengthy encounter.

"To describe it as substantive or even lengthy would be inaccurate, that is true. It was an engagement for Mr. Holbrooke," Duguid told reporters.

The Netherlands hosted a one-day international conference at The Hague on March 31 to discuss the deteriorating security situation in war-stricken Afghanistan.

Upon an invitation by the US, Iran sent a delegation to the meeting headed by the Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad-Mehdi Akhoundzadeh.

The US administration welcomed Iran's participation at the conference but rejected any plan for 'substantive' bilateral talks with Iranian officials on the edge of the conference.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton however said on Tuesday that the envoys to the meeting had a chat -- which was aimed at restoring security in Iran's violence-stricken neighbor.

"In the course of the conference today our special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrook had a brief and cordial exchange with the head of the Iranian delegation," Clinton told reporters.

"It was cordial, unplanned and they agreed to stay in touch," she added.

Iran denied the report in a Wednesday statement, saying "As talks between Iran and the US have not been on the agenda, there has certainly been no negotiation with the American envoy".

Tehran "does not oppose such encounters, but the conference was about assisting Afghanistan and not about settling our differences. We are not in a game of hide-and-seek; we pursue an unambiguous and transparent policy," it added.

The report was also rejected by Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hassan Qashqavi who said "There were no official or either unofficial meetings or talks between the Iranian and American delegations on the margin of the meeting."

... Payvand News - 04/03/09 ... --

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