Reuters: Iran has confirmed it will attend a meeting of major powers this week in Egypt that will seek ways to end the violence in Iraq, Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Sunday. By Dean Yates and Ross Colvin
BAGHDAD, April 29 (Reuters) – Iran has confirmed it will attend a meeting of major powers this week in Egypt that will seek ways to end the violence in Iraq, Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Sunday.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has confirmed it will attend the Sharm al-Sheikh conference to support Iraq at the foreign ministerial level,” Maliki’s office said in a statement.
“This came in a phone call between Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and …(Iran’s President) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today.”
There was no immediate independent confirmation from Tehran.
Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshiyar Zebari, told Reuters there was a “high possibility” that Iran and the United States would hold a bilateral meeting in the Egyptian resort, although not necessarily at the ministerial level.
The U.S. State Department has said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will take part in the May 3-4 Egypt meeting and is open to direct talks with Washington’s foe Iran over Iraq.
U.S. officials accuse Shi’ite Iran of supplying weapons and training to Shi’ite Muslim militias in Iraq, a charge Tehran denies.
The high-level conference will bring together Iraq’s neighbours, including Syria and Turkey, and world powers. The meeting is a follow-up to one in Baghdad in March, where Maliki urged neighbouring states to do more to end violence in Iraq.
Zebari, who visited Tehran last week to try to persuade Iran to take part in the conference, said one reason Iran had been reluctant to say whether it would attend was the detention by U.S. forces of five Iranians in Iraq in January.
Relations between Iraq and Iran, both predominantly Shi’ite Muslim countries, have improved since the downfall of Saddam Hussein. But the United States accuses Tehran of fomenting instability in Iraq following the U.S. invasion in 2003.
Washington and Tehran are also at odds over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme. The United States says Iran is seeking to build an atomic bomb, but Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful, civilian use.
Senior Iranian official Ali Larijani was due in Baghdad later on Sunday to discuss the meeting in Egypt.