News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqRice to shun Iran at meeting of Iraq's neighbors

Rice to shun Iran at meeting of Iraq’s neighbors

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ImageAP: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday she has no plans to meet Iran's foreign minister at a conference of Iraq's neighbors next week, amid increasing U.S. complaints about Iranian support for Iraqi insurgents.

The Associated Press

By MATTHEW LEE

ImageWASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday she has no plans to meet Iran's foreign minister at a conference of Iraq's neighbors next week, amid increasing U.S. complaints about Iranian support for Iraqi insurgents.

Rice renewed U.S. calls for Iran to end its backing for Shia militias and said she would repeat that message at the neighbors' meeting in Kuwait. But she said she would not press the point directly with her Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, who is also expected to attend Tuesday's conference.

"I don't intend to meet the Iranians, that is not in the plan," Rice told reporters in Washington. "The Iranians will be at the meeting … but, no, I don't have any plans to meet them."

U.S. officials have in recent weeks stepped up accusations about Iranian involvement in the insurgency and Rice said it was critical for Tehran to halt such activity.

"Iran must end malign actions that interfere in Iraq's affairs, undermine Iraq's government and harm or murder innocent Iraqis," she said. She added it is also essential for Iraq's Sunni Arab neighbors to make good on pledges to support the Iraqi government diplomatically and through debt relief to counter "nefarious influences" from majority Shiite Iran.

"What Iraq now needs most, and what I will push for in Kuwait, is greater support from its neighbors," Rice said. "Iraq's fellow Arab states must fulfill their promises to increase their engagement … with Iraq's government and people. That includes establishing embassies in Baghdad and exchanging ambassadors."

Some Arab countries, like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, have promised to open embassies in Iraq, but have not yet done so, citing security concerns. There are currently no Arab ambassadors resident in Baghdad.

But Rice said security conditions were improving and "increasingly provide an opportunity for Iraq's Arab neighbors to have diplomatic representation there." She noted that Iraq was a founding member of the Arab League and should once again be an integral part of the grouping.

"Iraq should be fully reincorporated into the Arab world," she said. "I think that, in and of itself, will begin to shield (Iraq) from influences of Iran that are nefarious influences. Iran is a neighbor, it is going to have influence, but Iraq is first and foremost an Arab state."

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