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    28 February 2007

    Regional Roundtable: Iraq Update

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    Following up on this post from a few days ago:
    ...David Ignatius revealed that "[t]he Bush administration has agreed to sit around a negotiating table with official representatives of Iran and Syria ... to discuss ways to stabilize Iraq." The setting will be at a yet to be announced "Baghdad Conference" involving regional state actors and representatives from then UN Security Council states.

    Iran and Syria have at least indicated that they will attend this meeting next month.
    Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria, have agreed to join U.S. and British representatives at a regional conference here on the Iraqi security crisis, government officials said Wednesday.

    Deputy Foreign Minister Labid Abawi told The Associated Press that Russia and France were studying the invitation, but "I don't see any sign they will refuse."

    "Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, even the U.S and Britain have informed us they will participate," he said, although Tehran has said publicly it has made no decision. Abawi also said China had agreed to attend.
    Ali Larijani, the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said earlier that Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari contacted Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki to discuss the conference. "We are reviewing the proposal," Larijani said, quoted by the state TV Web site.

    "We support solving problems of Iraq by all means and we will attend the conference if it is expedient," Larijani said. "We believe Iraq's security is related to all its neighboring countries, and they have to help settle the situation."

    Larijani suggested the U.S. presence was not a problem for Iran. Asked by reporters if Iran was running a risk by attending the conference alongside the Americans, he replied, "One should not commit suicide because one is afraid of death" — meaning Iran should not hurt itself just to avoid possible negative results.
    Larijani did not say what level delegate Iran would send if it chose to attend the conference. Rice said Tuesday the gathering would be at a sub-ministerial level, which would be followed by a full ministerial meeting, possibly in early April.

    Syria will be represented by Ahmed Arnous, an aide to the foreign minister, a Syrian Foreign Ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the plans had not yet been formally announced.

    Syria believes the U.S. participation in the conference was "a partial step ... in the right direction for comprehensive dialogue with Syria on all issues of the Middle East," the state SANA news agency quoted the Foreign Ministry official as saying.

    Iraq's Ahmad Chalabi, an influential Shiite, said the conference was "long overdue" and expressed hope it would help "in building international support" for the Iraqi government.

    Posted by Geoff

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