News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqWorld powers to meet Iraq neighbours again in May

World powers to meet Iraq neighbours again in May

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AFP: The Iraqi government has agreed to a new meeting between its neighbours and world powers in Egypt next month in a bid to help stabilise the country, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Saturday. by Sabah Jerges

BAGHDAD, April 7, 2007 (AFP) – The Iraqi government has agreed to a new meeting between its neighbours and world powers in Egypt next month in a bid to help stabilise the country, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Saturday.

“The Iraqi government agreed to hold the next ministerial meeting of Iraq neighbouring countries, plus the G5 (UN Security Council veto-wielding permanent members) and G8 (most-industrialised nations) in Egypt, most probably in Sharm el-Sheikh on May 3 and 4,” Zebari told a Baghdad news conference.

The aim would be to engage Iraq’s neighbours constructively in restoring security to the war-torn country, follow up on an initial meeting in Baghdad last month and reduce regional tension.

The ambassador-level talks on March 10 saw the United States and its regional foes, Iran and Syria, two key Iraq neighbours, hold rare direct talks.

This follow-up ministerial-level conference, now scheduled for May, could see US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meet her Iranian counterpart — a meeting the State Department has not ruled out.

Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States make up the G5. The G8 club of the eight wealthiest nations would also bring Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan to the table.

Although Zebari did not specify the individual guest list, he expressed hope that the talks would lead to dialogue and said it could present an opportunity to help break the deadlock against a background of increasing tension.

“We hope it will lead to some dialogue, contact between those regional powers and international powers,” he told the news conference.

“As a forum, as a platform, there may be opportunities for breaking the deadlock which would be helpful to my country because we need a conducive, supportive regional environment for us to succeed,” he added.

Addressing the conference in Arabic, he also said: “I personally don’t rule out bilateral dialogue between the parties participating.”

On Thursday, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Rice does not rule out a bilateral meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on the sidelines of the conference.

Zebari said Egypt would also host another meeting, either back-to-back or separately, to sign documents in which the international community has pledged to support Iraq in exchange for certain economic reforms.

“The aim of the compact meeting is to finalise, or to sign the documents that the international community pledged support for Iraq in exchange of certain economic reforms,” Zebari told the news conference.

Last month the United Nations hosted a conference on the International Compact with Iraq, a joint initiative of the world body and the World Bank established last July.

At that event, Vice President Adel Abdel Mahdi laid out a five-year economic revival plan before nearly 90 countries which will review Iraq’s progress in carrying out reforms in exchange for international aid and debt relief.

Zebari said Baghdad, Cairo and Istanbul had all been considered as possible venues for the ministerial meeting, but that his government decided to opt for Egypt, with the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh as the most likely location.

He clarified there was no “prejudice” towards Turkey — which had offered to host the gathering — by opting to hold the high-profile meeting in Egypt.

“The Iraqi government’s decision has nothing to do with lack of trust. There will be future opportunities to hold meetings in Turkey. The security took a centre stage in our concern.”

Zebari also elaborated on reasons for not holding the event in Baghdad: “The accidental event that happened with the UN Secretary General was one”.

Last month, Ban ki-moon had a close shave when a rocket crashed just 40 metres (yard) away from the building where he was giving a news conference with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone.

Around 70 people were killed in July 2005, however, when multiple blasts struck the glittering Sharm el-Sheikh resort.

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