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Afghan neighbours and allies to meet in Paris

world Updated: Dec 13, 2008 13:35 IST

AFP
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Senior envoys from Afghanistan, its neighbours India and Pakistan and the world's great powers are to meet on Sunday in Paris to discuss ways out of the war-torn country's seemingly permanent state of crisis.

French officials said the purpose of the meeting was to encourage the states around Afghanistan, in particular Pakistan and Iran, to play a more positive role in supporting Kabul's attempts to regain control.

But the talks will also be notable for bringing together senior ministers from countries with disputes of their own to settle.

The meeting will put Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in a room with Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma, as the regional rivals continue to argue over fallout from last month's Mumbai attacks.

The United States will be represented by its assistant secretary of State for South Asian affairs, Richard Boucher, who will be across the table from arch-enemy Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

Franco-Iranian relations took a turn for the worse this week after President Nicolas Sarkozy criticised Tehran's threats against Israel, but diplomats said the meeting showed that the parties remained open to talks on regional issues.

"It's about working together in a concrete fashion on regional cooperation whether it be on broad political issues or questions of security and economic relations," said French foreign ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier.