US congratulates Iran on World Cup, hopes for faceoff

Iranian players offer flowers to US players before a politically charged match in Lyon, France during the 1998 World Cup

Iranian players offer flowers to US players before a politically charged match in Lyon, France during the 1998 World Cup Creator: PATRICK KOVARIK

The US negotiator locked in months of tense nuclear talks on Friday had a different message to Iran -- congratulations on qualifying for the World Cup, and hope to see you on the pitch.

As talks in Vienna took a new break, the first public message Monday by Rob Malley, who is seeking to revive a nuclear accord, was on Iran becoming the first Asian team to secure a spot in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

"Congrats to #teammelli on qualifying for the #WorldCup2022. It's good to see women were allowed to attend the match," Malley wrote on Twitter, using the Iranian team's nickname.

"Hope #USMNT sees you in Doha," he wrote, referring to the US team.

Iranian women were allowed into the stadium for the first time in almost three years for the victory Thursday over Iraq.

Iran's clerical rulers have generally tried to bar women from stadiums, but world football's governing body FIFA ordered Iran in September 2019 to allow access to female fans.

The US team, which beat El Salvador on Thursday, is on track to qualify for the World Cup after a stunning failure to reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Iran played against the United States in the 1998 World Cup in France in what has been described as one of the most political matches in the tournament's history.

The Iranian players, who won 2-1, entered by offering white roses to the American players in a symbol of peace.

Iran has not had diplomatic relations with Washington since the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution, which toppled the Western-oriented shah.

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