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Clinton Has No Plan For 'Substantive' Iran Meeting

U.S. Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton

U.S. Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has no plans for a "substantive" meeting with Iranian officials at a conference on Afghanistan in the Hague next week, the State Department has said.

"No substantive meetings are planned with Iranian officials at this time," said State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid, when asked if Clinton planned to have a meeting with Iranian officials on the sidelines of the conference on March 31.

"This conference is about reaching a regional consensus about Afghanistan. It is not a conference about U.S.-Iranian relations," he said.

But Duguid welcomed Iran's participation at the Hague conference, which Clinton proposed, and the hope was that Iran could help in stabilizing Afghanistan.

"We do want this conference to be a regional conference, which would be incomplete without Iran," Duguid said.

"The Iranians have not always played a helpful role in Afghanistan. We are hoping that their attendance here is a demonstration that they are willing to play a positive role in regards to Afghanistan," he added.

While not ready for any bilateral talks, Duguid said Clinton would deal with Iran in a multilateral setting at the meeting.

"The Iranians will be around the table. They will speak, we will listen to them and they will also hear our points of view about Afghanistan," Duguid said.

The U.S. special representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, is accompanying Clinton to The Hague, where details of the Obama administration's review on Afghanistan will be provided after its expected release on March 27.

Duguid said neither Holbrooke nor any other members of the U.S. delegation going to The Hague had plans for meetings with their Iranian counterparts.