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Iran Considering US Invite to Afghan Talks

By VOA News
06 March 2009

Iran said it is weighing a U.S. invitation to participate in an international conference on Afghanistan.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told Serbian state television Friday that Iranian officials were considering whether to attend the March 31 talks, but would not say whether they would.

Mottaki said he would discuss the matter with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini during Frattini's upcoming visit to Tehran. Italy said that trip has been postponed because of Iranian officials' recent anti-Israeli and anti-American comments.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proposed that Iran be invited to the conference during a NATO meeting in Brussels Thursday. She said Iran would be invited as a "neighbor" and that the meeting would include other neighboring countries as well as NATO members and donors.

In the interview Friday, Mottaki blamed the U.S. for Afghanistan's deteriorating security and said Iran's strategy is the "return of peace and stability" in the country.

Iran's invitation to attend the Afghan talks comes as the United States reviews the previous administration's policy of isolating Tehran, including whether to open a low-level diplomatic office there.

The location of the conference has not been announced, but Clinton suggested Thursday that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon open the ministerial-level meeting. She also suggested U.N. special envoy for Afghanistan Kai Eide chair the proceedings.

NATO ministers were reviewing the situation in Afghanistan ahead of upcoming presidential elections. They agreed on the need to assist Afghan authorities in providing security to assure a fair and free vote.

The United States has pledged an additional 17,000 troops for Afghanistan, and other NATO members are being asked for further contributions.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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