Iran's presence at Afghanistan conference 'logical'
30 March 2009,
by Reed Stevenson THE HAGUE (Reuters)http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSTRE52T5DR20090330THE HAGUE (Reuters) -
Iran's presence at a U.N.-backed Afghanistan conference is a logical part of efforts to bring peace to the country, a senior U.S. official said on Monday.
"How can you talk about Afghanistan and exclude one of the countries that's a bordering, neighboring state?" Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told reporters.
"To us it seems to be the most logical thing in the world," Holbrooke said. "The presence of Iran here is obvious."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday she hoped Iran would play a positive role in Afghanistan and Pakistan. U.S. President Barack Obama spoke of a "new beginning" in relations with the Islamic Republic earlier this month.
Asked whether Iran's presence indicated a shift in its relationship with the United States, Holbrooke declined to comment.
Noting the nearly 90 countries and organizations taking part, including Pakistan, Russia, China and NATO, Holbrooke said the conference was "already a success."
"Just look at this list of 90 countries and organizations who came on the shortest of notice," he said.
"The very fact that they are here is a statement that the world has not forgotten Afghanistan and that we've acknowledged that Pakistan is part of the issue."
The conference takes place after the Obama administration unveiled a new strategy to defeat Al Qaeda militants, involving the deployment of more troops and money to Afghanistan.(Reporting by Reed Stevenson; Editing by Farah Master)