Iraq's foreign minister said Saturday that the 10-day-old Persian Gulf peace talks were stalled at their starting point, and he blamed Iran for the delay.
Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz spoke to reporters at the U.N. building in Geneva after a nearly two-hour meeting with U.N. mediator Jan Eliasson."We are still at square one," Aziz said. "We have not gone beyond that square because the other side, the Iranian side, has not yet shown any substantive sign that . . . they realize their commitments vis-a-vis the cease-fire."
He said those commitments had to do with freedom of navigation and with the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, Iraq's main outlet to the sea. Iran has insisted it has the right to stop vessels in the gulf and share control of the waterway.
The dispute over the waterway is one of the key issues in the talks.
Aziz also accused Iran of using "their traditional art of procrastination" in the talks. "Maybe they were betting that procrastination would make people fed up and then give up. We don't."
He said Iraqi delegates would stay at the talks as long as necessary.
Iran made no immediate response to his comments.
Earlier Saturday, Eliasson told reporters he was working hard to find a format to advance the talks. However, an Iranian delegate speaking on condition of anonymity said the problem was substance, not form.
The talks are aimed at agreeing on follow-up measures to the U.N.-sponsored cease-fire that took effect Aug. 20. The Iran-Iraq conflict, which began in September 1980, has claimed about 1 million lives.
Eliasson, named special representative Thursday by U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, met separately with both ministers Friday. Perez de Cuellar left Geneva on Thursday, after mediating the first week of the talks.
Perez de Cuellar said before he left Geneva that the main problem in the talks was that the two sides did not trust each other.