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US to invite Iran to attend conference on Afghanistan

The United States today said it will invite Afghanistan's neighbours, including Iran, to attend a regional conference on the war-ravaged Asian nation scheduled at the end of this month.

world Updated: Mar 06, 2009 12:05 IST

The United States on Friday said it will invite Afghanistan's neighbours, including Iran, to attend a regional conference on the war-ravaged Asian nation scheduled at the end of this month.

"The conference that was proposed, we would invite and include the neighbours of Afghanistan, which, as you know, geographically Iran is one of them," said White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs.

Gibbs said: "I would expect that Iran would be invited, as a neighbour, and that we hope, if they decide to come, that they'll bring constructive solutions and ideas in working with the international community to address the challenges that are involved in Afghanistan."

However, Gibbs refrained from answering specific questions if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be individually meeting the Iranian leaders. The conference has been scheduled for March 31, but the venue has not been announced yet.

Earlier the State Department Acting Deputy Spokesman Gordon Duguid said Iran is one of the nations in the region who has had a role to play in the past.

"We had consultations with Iran on Afghanistan in the early days of the conflict there. But Iran has to decide whether or not it's going to play a positive or a negative role in this region," Duguid said.

In her speech in Brussels to the NATO members, Clinton proposed that regional meeting on Afghanistan on March 31, which could be hosted by the United Nations.

She said if her idea of a "big tent" gathering was accepted by international officials, "it is expected that Iran would be invited as a neighbour of Afghanistan."

If Iran participates in the meeting, this would give both the Iranian and US leaders a platform to meet and talk to each other.