TEHRAN - Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Saturday Tehran will hold talks on neighbouring Iraq with Washington "in spite of distrusting Americans", the ISNA news agency reported.

"We will ... talk with America about Iraq because of requests by the Iraqi people and government, but with consideration of Iraqis and the Islamic world's interests and in consultation with Islamic countries," Ahmadinejad said during a meeting with Syria's visiting First Vice President Faruq al-Shara.

"We basically do not trust Americans," he added.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Tuesday gave a tacit blessing to talks between the Islamic republic and the United States, but said the Islamic republic wanted Washington to leave Iraq.

The idea was first floated just over a week ago by Ali Larjani, head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, its nuclear chief and one of the country's most visible officials.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday she was "quite certain" that US officials would hold direct talks with Iran on the turmoil in Iraq, but could not say when.

In an interview with the Washington Post, US envoy to Baghdad Zalmay Khalilzad, who would lead talks with Tehran, accused the Islamic republic of aiding Iraqi militia and insurgents groups.

The White House suspects Iran waited months to accept the US offer, first approved last November, in order to deflect pressure from Tehran's atomic energy program, which has been referred to the UN Security Council.

The United States charges Iran with seeking to obtain nuclear weapons, while Tehran insists its programme is meant only for peaceful purposes.

03/25/2006 14:41 GMT

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