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NATO confirms first high-level meeting with Iran on Afghanistan
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09:17, March 27, 2009

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Iran and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) held their first secret and informal talks in 30 years in Brussels where NATO is headquartered, focusing on Afghanistan, the alliance confirmed here Thursday.

The meeting took place on March 9 between NATO's Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy Martin Erdmann and Iran's Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union, Ali-Asghar Khaji, NATO deputy spokeswoman Carmen Romero told Xinhua.

"It was a very informal contact and they basically discussed Afghanistan," she added. "You know the secretary-general (Jaap de Hoop Scheffer) has said recently that Iran should be involved in a regional approach in regard of Afghanistan."

Romero said that she did not know if there will be another meeting. However, she said "I don't rule out there will be another contact."

The alliance's spokesman James Appathurai also told reporters earlier that it was "a first informal contact" and the Iranian side is interested in cooperation on Afghanistan.

Speaking at the Brussels-based Security and Defense Agenda think tank in January, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer called on the United States and its fellow NATO allies to engage with Iran to quell the insurgency in Afghanistan.

On Thursday, Iran announced it will take part in a United Nations conference on the future of Afghanistan to be held in The Hague next week. But Iranian Foreign Minister Hassan Qashqavi said that "the level of participation is not clear."

The NATO is playing a key role in maintaining peace and stability in Afghanistan, which neighbors Iran. In Washington, the U.S. State Department Wednesday said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is not planning to have a separate meeting with Iran's delegation at an international conference on Afghanistan in the Hague on March 31.

"I will not rule out the fact that there could be some kind of a greeting of some type, but there's no plan, as far as I know, for there to be a meeting between the two delegations," State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood told reporters.

"This conference is more than just the U.S. and Iran. It's about Afghanistan and the situation in the region. And that's where we need to keep our focus," he said.

Source: Xinhua

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