Iran General NewsRice to visit London to discuss Afghanistan, Iran

Rice to visit London to discuss Afghanistan, Iran

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Reuters: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit London next week to discuss strategy on Afghanistan, Iran and other issues with Britain’s foreign minister, the State Department said on Friday.
By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON, Feb 1 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit London next week to discuss strategy on Afghanistan, Iran and other issues with Britain’s foreign minister, the State Department said on Friday.

Rice is expected to meet on Wednesday with Foreign Minister David Miliband and will likely also see Prime Minister Gordon Brown during her brief trip, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

“I expect they will talk a little bit about Iran, talk some about Iraq, talk some about Afghanistan,” McCormack said.

In Afghanistan, Taliban attacks are increasing and Washington wants more NATO efforts to stabilize the country.

Two U.S. non-governmental studies released this week said that absent new international efforts to win the war and develop the economy, Afghanistan could once again become a failed state and terrorist haven.

The United States is seeking stronger commitments from its European allies and is also looking for a new candidate to coordinate international efforts after Afghan President Hamid Karzai rejected British politician Paddy Ashdown for the job.

The United States has 29,000 troops in Afghanistan and earlier this month said it would add 3,200 Marines. Washington wants NATO allies to offer more counterinsurgency forces while placing fewer restrictions on those that are there.

“I won’t make a secret of the fact that we are encouraging all of our NATO allies to do everything that they can in terms of contributing resources,” McCormack said. “We are in a fight in Afghanistan, against violent extremists, whether that’s al Qaeda or the Taliban or any other associated group.”

URGING ALLIES ON AFGHANISTAN

Rice has increased her Afghanistan diplomacy in recent weeks, urging allies to do more. On Friday, she made a personal appeal to Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, whose nation has already said it could expand its role there.

“NATO as an alliance has been looking at what it needs to do and what more needs to be done to fight the Taliban, to permit the Afghan people to have security so that reconstruction can take place,” Rice said at a joint news conference with Sikorski.

“Poland has been active in Afghanistan, and we look forward to continued conversations with Poland and with all members of NATO,” she added.

Rice raised the issue with Australia’s foreign minister this week and she also asked France’s defense minister on Thursday to do everything he could to help, said McCormack.

She also discussed Afghanistan with German officials during a trip to Berlin last week.

Germany’s defense ministry said on Thursday the United States had written a strongly worded letter to Germany and other NATO members urging them to send combat troops to dangerous areas in southern Afghanistan.

But on Friday, Germany said there were no plans to change its deployment from the less violent north of the country.

Another key topic during Rice’s London visit will be Iran. Last week, Rice and ministers from the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council as well as Germany agreed on elements of a new draft sanctions resolution against Iran.

The resolution, which is weaker than the United States would have wanted because of opposition from Russia and China, is being circulated at the United Nations in New York. It is unclear when there will be a vote. (Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, editing by Eric Beech)

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