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Afghanistan, Neighbors, World Powers Meet In Paris


French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner is hosting the conference

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner is hosting the conference

Senior officials from Afghanistan, its neighboring countries, and world powers have met in the French capital, Paris, to discuss ways of ending the Afghan conflict and helping the country rebuild.

However, Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki did not participate in the December 14 meeting due to an apparent diplomatic row with France.

The envoys from Pakistan, China, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and India gathered at French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's official residence in Saint Cloud, a leafy Paris suburb, for a day of closed-door talks. Senior European Union officials and representatives from UN Security Council members Russia, the United States, and Britain were also in attendance.

A statement released after the meeting said there can be no long-term security and peace in the region without a stable, secure, prosperous, and democratic Afghanistan.

The envoys agreed that nations should work more closely to strengthen security on Afghanistan's borders to help in the fight against narcotics trafficking and terrorism, but no new concrete initiatives were announced.

The talks in Saint Cloud followed a June international conference in Paris during which nations pledged more than $20 billion in aid for Afghan reconstruction.

French officials, whose country currently holds the European Union's rotating presidency, had said the conference was aimed at persuading countries neighboring Afghanistan to be more active in supporting Kabul's efforts to regain control of the country amid a mounting Taliban insurgency.

Pakistan and Iran, in particular, were expected to be asked to cooperate more closely with the international community in combating Taliban and extremist forces operating in Afghanistan.

Washington has charged Iran with selling weapons to extremist groups, while Pakistan has been accused of dragging its feet in preventing cross-border operations by the Taliban, many of whom have bases in Pakistan. In recent weeks, NATO convoys have been attacked within Pakistan itself.

Diplomatic Dispute

However, Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki, who had been expected to participate, did not attend the meeting.

No official reason was given for his failure to attend, but it followed Iran's recent protest to France over remarks by President Nicolas Sarkozy condemning Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's threats against Israel. Sarkozy last week that he could not "shake hands" or "sit at the same table" with Mahmud Ahmadinejad, as the Iranian president "has dared to say that Israel should be wiped off the map."

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told a news conference that the meeting was able to go forward without the participation of Iran.

"It wasn't very easy to hold this meeting with all the neighbors of Afghanistan present, with the exception of only one, who said yesterday that he would be with us, the Iranian minister. Hard luck for him -- we did without him and we did it as if he wasn't there, if I may say," Kouchner said

Mottaki on December 13 failed to show up at a meeting with Kouchner in the French capital.

The talks also brought together Pakistani and Indian officials. However, the Pakistani and Indian envoys said they did not hold a separate meeting to address the tensions between their nations over last month's attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai. India has blamed the attacks on Pakistan-based militants.
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