Clinton Calls US-Iranian Meeting 'Promising'
By Lisa Bryant
31 March 2009
Senior U.S. and Iranian leaders met Tuesday on the sidelines of an international conference in The Hague aimed at re-energizing international commitments for war-torn Afghanistan. Participants agreed to boost security and development in the central Asian nation.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the meeting that took place between U.S. special representative Richard Holbrooke and Iran's deputy foreign minister Mehdi Akhundzadeh as brief but cordial. She said the two sides had agreed to stay in touch.
In remarks at the conference, Akhundzadeh criticized international military efforts in Afghanistan. But he also said Iran was willing to help fight drug trafficking that is spilling across Iran's border with Afghanistan, and to help in that country's reconstruction and development.
Clinton called the Iranian diplomat's remarks "promising".
"The questions of border security and, in particular, the transit of narcotics across the border from Afghanistan to Iran is a worry that the Iranians have, which we share," she said. "And we will look for ways to cooperate with them. And, I think, the fact they came here today, they intervened today, is a promising sign that there will be future cooperation."
Clinton also said the U.S. had handed a letter to the Iranian delegation, seeking Tehran's intervention on behalf of three American citizens in Iran who are unable to return home. One of them is a former FBI agent, Robert Levinson, who disappeared while visiting Iran in 2007.
Representatives from more than 80 countries and international institutions at The Hague conference stressed the importance of international and regional cooperation - notably on the part of Pakistan and Iran - in helping to rebuild Afghanistan. A separate donors' conference on Pakistan will be held April 17 in Japan.
Diplomats also agreed to work jointly to improve security, economic and political development in Afghanistan. That country will be on the agenda again this week during a NATO summit on the French-German border.
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