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Munich Security Conference Opens, With China Making Debut

Source: RFE/RL

Defense officials, diplomats, and politicians from around the world have gathered in the southern German city of Munich for the leading international forum on security policy. The annual Munich Security Conference has long been a strategy session for U.S. and European leaders on defense cooperation.

But in its 46th year, the three-day conference will open today with an address by China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. It's the first time China is formally participating in the gathering, a move that reflects Asia's growing role on the world stage.

"The agenda clearly reflects Asia's growing role and the shifting of power from Europe to Asia," says RFE/RL correspondent Brian Whitmore, who is in Munich for the conference. "The [opening] speaker will the Chinese foreign minister. And in contrast to previous years, the United States delegation is much more modest. The highest-ranking official will be National Security Adviser James Jones."

Vice President Joe Biden headed last year's U.S. delegation.

Nuclear disarmament, Iran's controversial nuclear program, stabilizing Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also China's future role in world affairs were expected to be the major themes at this year's conference.

Iranian FM Manuchehr Mottaki arrives at the Munich Security Conference today.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki is to attend a "Night Owl Session" today with his Swedish counterpart, Carl Bildt.

Earlier in the day, Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev is to open a panel discussion on "Resource Security and Shifting Global Power."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. special representative Richard Holbrooke are also due to be among an estimated 300 participants.

Others due to attend include senior representatives from India and Pakistan, as well Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Speaking in Berlin today, Lavrov said UN Security Council members may have to discuss Iran if it fails to cooperate with the international community over its nuclear program. He said he planned to meet Mottaki on the sidelines of the Munich conference to discuss the issue.

The event follows indications from Iran that it might agree to a Western proposal to send uranium abroad for enrichment, in what was seen as a possible breakthrough in the dispute.

Washington has called on President Mahmud Ahmadinejad to make a concrete proposal to the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency.

The conference also comes amid signs of fast-deteriorating U.S.-Chinese relations. Beijing has been angered by a U.S. arms deal with Taiwan and by the prospect of the Dalai Lama visiting the White House later this month.

At the conference, U.S. and Russian officials will also have the opportunity to discuss the progress of negotiations on a new arms control agreement to replace the Cold War-era START treaty.

Security is expected to be tight at the event, with German police expecting around 5,000 demonstrators.

with agency reports

Copyright (c) 2010 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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