Kerry raises ISIS threat with Iranian counterpart

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last week that the Islamic Republic had rejected a request to join a coalition against ISIS

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday raised the threat of Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria directly with his Iranian counterpart in high-level talks in New York, a U.S. official said, according to Agence France Presse.

Kerry met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for more than an hour at a hotel, during which they discussed progress in nuclear negotiations and “also discussed the threat posed by ISIL,” a senior State Department official said, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“They discussed both the progress that has been made and the work that still needs to be done,” the official said.

“They spent time reviewing the status of the EU-led P5+1 negotiations on Iran's nuclear program,” the official added, referring to the nuclear talks being led by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.

Iran -- normally seen as Washington's arch-foe -- has a role to play as the United States seeks to build a coalition to combat the militants, the top U.S. diplomat said.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last week that the Islamic Republic had rejected a request from the U.S. to join the coalition.

Zarif and Kerry met one-on-one first, before being joined by U.S. Deputy Secretary Bill Burns and Under Secretary Wendy Sherman on the U.S. side and Zarif's deputies Abbas Araqchi and Majid Takht-Ravanchi on the Iranian side, the State Department official said.

The U.S. and Iran do not have official diplomatic relations.

Also on Sunday, Kerry discussed his coalition-building efforts with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov Sunday during a phone call.

Kerry and Lavrov talked “about how to broaden the conversation we've started on whatever role Russia may choose to play in the ISIL coalition,” a second State Department official said.

The official refused to be drawn further however on what role Moscow could take.

“We've been pretty clear about the menu of ways to contribute... so I think we're looking to hear from the Russians what their intentions are.”

Lavrov and Kerry are due to meet in New York later in the week on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly.

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