Iran joins Afghan peace talks for the first time

Iran took part in a high-level meeting on Afghanistan Monday after the United States said it has no problem with its participation.

Rome: Iran took part in a high-level meeting on Afghanistan Monday after the United States said it has no problem with its participation.

The international "contact group" met in Rome amid a renewed push to end the nine-year-old war in Afghanistan, including bringing Taliban into peace talks. The group gathers the Afghan government, NATO, the EU, UN and other key players - including Iran this time - to assess progress in Afghanistan.

Representatives attending the talks said Iran was invited as part of efforts to have a comprehensive approach and include regional players in the discussions over the future of Afghanistan.

Richard Holbrooke, US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said Washington was asked about possible Iranian involvement and responded it had no problem with it. He and other representatives stressed the talks are limited to Afghanistan and do not touch on the contentious issue of Tehran`s nuclear dossier.

"This is a meeting on Afghanistan and it is restricted to Afghanistan," Holbrooke told reporters. "What we are discussing here is not affected by, nor will it affect, the bilateral issues that are discussed elsewhere regarding Iran."

Citing Iran`s long border with Afghanistan and its problem of drugs and immigrants coming in from Afghanistan, Holbrooke said that Tehran "has a role to play in the peaceful settlement of the situation" and that "for the United States today there`s no problem with their presence."

Iran sent its special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Ghanazadeh. The "contact group" also invited 10 representatives from countries in the Organisation of Islamic Conference.

Bureau Report

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