Iran to hold Iraq summit

Officials have denied that the Syrian president could also attend the meeting.

    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the
    president of Iran, will host the summit

    The weekend summit comes amid speculation that the US might try to involve Iran and Syria in efforts to end the conflict in Iraq.
    A spokesman for Ahmadinejad said on Monday that Talabani's visit was scheduled several weeks ago. 


    Hassan Kazimi Qumi, the Iranian ambassador to Iraq, had said that al-Assad would be in Tehran to attend the talks.


    Bassem Sharif, a minister from the main Shia bloc in the Iraqi parliament, also said the Syrian president could be present at the meeting.


    Conflicting reports


    A Syrian official in Damascus with knowledge of the president's shedule said "there are no plans for such a [three-way] summit".


    "We still see foreign fighters coming across the Syrian border"

    William Caldwell, US military spokesman

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    But Hiwa Othman, Talabani's spokesperson, denied that al-Assad would attend the meeting.


    "There is no such three-way summit in Tehran and our president is looking forward to meet his Syrian counterpart in Damascus at some point of time," Othman said.


    "I asked the president about the three-way summit and he ruled out the possibility of such a meeting taking place over the weekend."


    Talabani, a Kurdish former rebel leader, enjoyed good relations with Iran before the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein's government.


    Iran backed Kurdish separatist movements, including Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, during the 1980s.


    US grievances


    Tony Blair, the British prime minister, has urged George Bush, the US president, to involve Iran and Syria in efforts to stabilise Iraq.


    Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president was
    rumoured to be attending the meeting

    However, William Caldwell, a US military spokesperson, reiterated on Monday US complaints that Syria has failed to help calm the situation in Iraq.


    "We still see foreign fighters coming across the Syrian border," he said.


    "Somewhat between 50 and 70 a month make it across the border into Iraq and are able to participate in operations here in the country."


    Tom Casey, a US state department spokesperson, called on Iran to play a productive role in Iraq.


    "Certainly we welcome continued discussion and dialogue … there have been positive statements from the Iranian government about wishing to play a positive role in Iraq, those statements haven't been backed up by actions," Casey said.

    Iran and Syria are seen as key players in Iraq.
    Syria is widely believed to have done little to stop foreign fighters from crossing its border into Iraq.
    Iran is accused of arming and supporting Shia fighters.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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