AP: Envoys from the West and Islamic nations – including Iran, Syria and the United States – are expected to attend a conference next month on efforts to stabilize Iraq, a diplomatic adviser said Tuesday. Associated Press
By BRIAN MURPHY
Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – Envoys from the West and Islamic nations – including Iran, Syria and the United States – are expected to attend a conference next month on efforts to stabilize Iraq, a diplomatic adviser said Tuesday.
The meeting, planned for mid-March in the Iraqi capital, is an attempt by the U.S.-backed government to seek greater regional assistance in fighting insurgents and addressing tensions between Iraq’s majority Shiite Muslims and Sunnis.
Some nations had expressed reservations about taking part in the conference because of security worries and political sensitivities. Some of Iraq’s Sunni neighbors are wary about being seen as lending too much support to the Shiite-led government.
But Labed Abbawi, an adviser to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, said “there has been positive responses” from nearly all the nations and groups invited, which include Iraq’s neighbors, the Arab League and the five permanent U.N. Security Council members.
“We believe all will attend,” he said. No date has been set.
In Washington, White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said the U.S. “would attend” a regional conference if invited. Abbawi said that the United States was among those asked to take part.
Perino said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would be “a logical attendee,” but said she could not announce anything on Rice’s behalf.
“Everyone in the region and interested parties has an interest and a stake in making sure that Iraq can become a thriving democracy,” said Perino.
The gathering could offer a forum for Washington to amplify its concerns about Iranian involvement in Iraq. U.S. officials claim Shiite militia receive a steady flow of arms and aid from Iran, including parts for lethal roadside bombs used against U.S. troops. Iran denies the charges.
The United States also has complained that Syria is not doing enough to block aid routes for Sunni insurgents, including the group al-Qaida in Iraq.