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Iran, NATO Officials Meet, First Time in 30 Years

By VOA News
26 March 2009

NATO said an Iranian diplomat has met with a NATO representative for the first direct talks between Tehran and the alliance in 30 years.

Few details of the meeting were immediately available, but a NATO spokesperson Thursday told VOA it happened in Brussels last week.

The French news agency (AFP) reported that an Iranian diplomat met with NATO Assistant Secretary General Martin Erdmann for "an informal contact" about Afghanistan.

Earlier Thursday, Iran confirmed it will attend a U.N.-sponsored conference on neighboring Afghanistan next week. Iran's foreign ministry said it has not yet decided who Tehran's representative will be.

The United States will be represented by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who proposed to the conference hosts earlier this month that Iran be invited.

A State Department spokesman, Gordon Duguid, said Thursday that Clinton has no plans for a "substantive" one-on-one meeting with Iranian officials at the conference.

Delegates from about 80 countries have been invited to The Hague to discuss security and reconstruction in Afghanistan. Iran skipped a similar international meeting in Paris last year.

The March 31 conference is being hosted by the governments of Afghanistan and the Netherlands, as well as the United Nations.

The New York Times reported earlier this month that U.S. military planners are considering routing some NATO supply lines through Iran to Afghanistan.

The Times said possible supply lines in Iran are not being considered for transferring U.S. materiel, but rather that of NATO allies which have relations with Tehran.

Afghan forces and international troops led by the U.S. and NATO have been battling a resurgent Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, and regional officials say the insecurity threatens to destabilize neighboring countries.

Iran and the United States severed diplomatic relations nearly 30 years ago, during the hostage crisis that followed the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran after the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

U.S. President Barack Obama said recently he is committed to diplomacy to address what he called "serious differences" between the United States and Iran.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei responded that he sees no real change in U.S. policy toward Iran. But he said if the United States changes, Iran also will change its behavior.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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