04/30/2007, 00.00
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Iran to attend conference at Sharm al-Sheikh, Iran and US want real commitment

Tehran announces it will attend international conference on Iraq scheduled for May 3-4. It will be the first meeting for an Iranian foreign minister and a US secretary of state in many years. Condy Rice says US open to a dialogue but on all outstanding issues. Maliki warns that Iraq’s crisis is danger for all its neighbours.

Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – US and Iranian representatives could meet for the first time in 26 years. Tehran agreed Sunday to join the US and other countries at an international conference on Iraq next May 3 and 4 at Sharm el-Sheikh. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is set to attend. After the report was confirmed, Iraqi and US authorities welcomed the decision, saying that they were hopeful that the commitment was real.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shia, told senior Iranian envoy Ali Larijani that terrorist attacks in Iraq would hurt all countries in the region, “including those that are supposed to support the Iraqi government.”

Although Maliki did not specifically refer to Iran, it appeared that his remarks were directed at Tehran which is financing Shiite extremists involved in the ongoing mayhem.

During their meeting, Larijani told al-Maliki that all countries that want stability in the region “have no choice but to support Iraq's elected government.”

Iraq's other neighbours as well as Egypt, Bahrain and representatives of the five permanent UN Security Council members have agreed to attend the meeting next Thursday and Friday in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm El-Sheik.

Iran’s delegation will be led by Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is almost certainly going to be present.

This will be the first meeting between top US and Iranian officials since 1979 and the hostage taking incident in Tehran.

The Americans are open to a dialogue but in discussing the Iraq issue all should be included. “But what do we need to do? It's quite obvious. Stop the flow of arms to foreign fighters. Stop the flow of foreign fighters across the borders,” Ms Rice said.

For Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari, Iran’s presence at the conference was in doubt because of the US capture of five Iranian officials in Erbil in January.

Another contentious issue was Tehran’s nuclear programme, ostensibly civilian in nature and for peaceful purposes, but thought to include the hidden development of nuclear weapons.

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