Washington and Tehran held three rounds of ground-breaking discussions in Baghdad last year, easing a diplomatic freeze of almost three decades, but Iraqi officials have expressed frustration that a fourth round has failed to get off the ground.

 

Iraq says it does not want its soil to become a battleground for a proxy war between the US and Iran, which are also at loggerheads over Iran's disputed nuclear programme.

 
Hosseini did not elaborate, but US forces have for several weeks been fighting daily battles in Baghdad with militiamen loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia leader who has demanded foreign forces leave Iraq.

 

The US says Iran funds and trains fighters to
attack US and Iraqi forces [AFP]
 

Washington accuses Iran of funding, arming and training "rogue" elements of al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army to attack US and Iraqi forces, despite its public commitment to stabilising Iraq.

 

Tehran blames the violence on the US presence in Iraq.

 

In Washington, Tom Casey, a state department spokesman, criticised Iran for its latest statements and reiterated US accusations of Iranian meddling in its neighbour's affairs.

 

"It is meaningless to have talks on anything with Iran as long as they don't change their behaviour. That said, we have continued to be willing and ready, and are willing and ready, to have additional discussions with the Iranians through this tripartite channel," Casey told reporters.

 

Violence

 

The war of words comes amid more fighting between US troops and Shia fighters in Sadr city left at least 10 people dead, including two children.

 

The fighting was part of a five-week-old crackdown by the Iraqi government and US military on Shia fighters in Baghdad whom US officials say are trained in camps run by the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah, inside Iran

 

The US military said last week "very, very significant" amounts of Iranian arms had been found in Basra and Baghdad during an offensive against fighters loyal to al-Sadr.

 

Separately on Monday, the US military blamed al-Qaeda fighters for killing 10 Iraqi soldiers in Diyala province north of Baghdad

 

According to unconfirmed reports from the Iraqi army the bodies of those shot were then decapitated.