US-Iran talks came amid a new
geo-political situation in the region

The meeting took place with the aid of the United Nations but only US and Iranian officials were present, a US official said on Saturday.

Tehran and Washington have previously met in the context of multilateral talks with Afghanistan’s neighbours and Russia.

Diplomatic ties between Iran and the US were cut after Tehran’s 1979 Islamic revolution which toppled the US-backed Shah. US President Bill Clinton had tried to initiate an open-agenda dialogue with Tehran.

But the official, who asked not to be named, said the contacts were an effort to discuss specific issues and not establish diplomatic relations. 

US Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking to reporters on his plane from Washington to Tel Aviv, said, “The issue of diplomatic relations is not on the table right now but we have ways (of communicating with Tehran) and we use them on a regular basis, very recently.”

“We do have channels that we are using with the Iranians and communicating to them that they ought to review their policies in light of the changed strategic situation,” said Powell.

Since taking office in January 2001 the Bush administration has steadily increased its rhetoric towards Iran. US President George W. Bush described Tehran as part of a so-called “axis of evil,” along with Iraq and North Korea.

Washington has increasingly complained about Iran’s nuclear programmes. Tehran has vowed to work closely with the United Nations' atomic watchdog to prove that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.