February 28, 2007, RFE/RL -- Iraq has confirmed that the United States, Iran and Syria will participate in a conference on the country's security.
Sami al-Askari, an adviser to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, says officials from the United States, Syria, and Iran will participate in talks that will also include representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Al-Askari said the countries are currently negotiating the conference date. It is expected to take place in March. A senior Iranian official said Tehran will take part in the conference as long as it is in the interest of its neighbor.
The secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Larijani, said Iran will do what it can to help resolve Iraq's problems.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced on February 27 that the United States and Iraq were launching an initiative to invite Iran and Syria to conferences on stabilizing Iraq.
The United States had been under pressure to include Iran and Syria in security talks.
(compiled from agency reports)
Larijani was speaking to reporters after a meeting with Iraqi parliamentarian Abdul-Karim Anze.
"We will participate in the conference of Iraqi neighboring states in Baghdad in March if it will be of help to Baghdad," he said.
He said Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has been formally invited to the conference by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.
Asked whether Iran would see a repeat of an experience it had while attending the Bonn conference on Afghanistan with regard to US and British representatives in the conference, the SNSC secretary said: "We should not commit suicide for fear of dying!"
"We will carry out everything necessary to advance Iraqi interests. Iraqi leaders have a great potential for administering the country's affairs," Larijani said.
He said Iraq's neighboring states have the duty to facilitate transfer of affairs to Iraqis.
A Foreign Office spokesman also confirmed that Britain will participate at official level at the meeting to discuss the security crisis in Iraq.
"We very much welcome the meeting. It is very important that neighbouring countries engage positively," the spokesman told IRNA.
The meeting, which also involves the US, has also been welcomed by member of the Iraq Study Group in Washington, which recommended such talks in December.
"Iran and Syria can play a much more positive role in security and rebuilding Iraq," the British Foreign Office spokesman said.
The conference, which will include the five permanent UN Security Council members and the Arab League, is expected to be initially held at non-ministerial level.
Speaking in the British parliament on Tuesday, former International Development Secretary Clare Short criticized commentators on the Middle East for "always trying to highlight Syria and Iran as interfering in Iraq and as a destructive influence."
"My view is that the game of divide and rule, and of blaming Iran and Syria for problems in Iraq, is merely about creating scapegoats," Short told MPs.
During a debate on Syria and Lebanon, she also said that "the vilification of Iran and separating Iran from Syria should not be the objective of our policy."
"Our policy should be to get Iran and Syria to help to stabilize Iraq and to drive on with a settlement in Israel and Palestine and with an agreement to remove all weapons of mass destruction from the region," the former minister said.
She also suggested that Prime Minister Tony Blair's government "will not be able to contribute to the finding of peace in the Middle East if they are not willing to adopt a more independent view" away from the US.
The Daily Telegraph said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice covered the Bush Administration's "embarrassment by insisting that it is the Iraqi government that is hosting the meeting, not the United States." "Such sophistry will cut little ice in the Middle East. This is a major climbdown by the American government," the daily said in its editorial Wednesday.
It reminded that the proposal made in December by the Iraq Study Group to involve Iran and Syria in helping to stabilize Iraq was rejected out of hand by US President George W Bush, who instead focused on in deploying an additional 21,500 troops.
The surge in the use of military force is "no more than a month old and the White House has now performed what many will see as an inevitable U-turn," the editorial said.
"Next month's round-table talks will at last recognise that bringing some semblance of order to Iraq cannot be achieved by the occupying forces alone," the Telegraph said.
"No matter how the Bush administration spins the decision, this is a humiliating retreat. It is also a necessary one," it said.
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