Saturday, March 10, 2007

Iraq Conference

Leading up to this weekends joint meetings in Iraq's al-Khadhra district, Iran is still determined to undermine security in Iraq and push their agenda to become a dominant player, along with Syria, in the region and throughout the Muslim world.

Meeting in Jakarta Indonesia with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Iranian Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi called for an Islamic Bloc of Muslim countries.

Comparing this proposed bloc to the European Union, Shahroudi stated it would be to combat problems in the Islamic world, which have been imposed by the world arrogance on Muslims.

This is no doubt in response to recent cuts in funding for nuclear projects by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and further calls for nuclear restraint by EU members attending this meeting Wednesday in Vienna. (Full text of EU foreign ministers’ statement on Iran)

The international enablers, Russia & China, expressed concern (of course) over many of the measures being discussed.

While Russia has been very instrumental in supplying Iran with technology and financing for for their nuclear ambitions, China has previously stressed Iran needs to cooperate with the IAEA.

While security was high, there was still an explosion at the location of the talks prior to the start of the meetings.

Iran, who the U.S has proof of supplying weapons and support to the insurgents, and Syria who also been accused of aiding the insurgency in Iraq will be at the meeting.

Syria claims to want to help calm the violence in Iraq, in comparison to Iran trying to make it about them and the United States and is skeptical of U.S. intentions.

David Satterfield, the State Department's Iraq coordinator, extending an olive branch, has stated the U.S. has no problems casual discussions with Iran or Syria at the meeting if approached. US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, who is heading the US delegation in Baghdad meeting, said his country may negotiate with Iran and Syria on the sidelines of the meeting.

Prior to the meeting, Iran had rebuffed any attempts for water cooler discussions with the U. S. at the meetings which representatives from Iraq's other neighbors as well as the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- Britain, China, France, and Russia will also be present.

Noting it is important for both Iran and the U.S. to be present, Iraq Foreign Minister urged both countries that Iraq has no desire to be a bargaining chip. "We do not want Iraq to be the battleground to settle scores for other countries and for them to settle their scores with the United States here at our expense," Hoshiyar Zebari told Reuters in an interview.

Opening the talks, Iraq Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, urged all participants to stop terrorism and reiterated Zebari's sentiments.

Al-Maliki appealed to those in attendance to help cut off networks that aid the extremists tearing his country apart. He warned that Iraq's growing sectarian bloodshed, if not checked, could spread across the Middle East.

"Iraqi has become a front-line battlefield," Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said at the conference. "(Iraq) needs support in this battle that not only threatens Iraq but will spill over to all countries in the region."

It was reported that U.S. and Iranian envoys shook hands at the onset of the closed door discussion, but there was not further engagement until later in the day.

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, said he exchanged views with Iranian delegates "directly and in the presence of others" at the gathering led by Iraq's neighbors and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

He declined to give details of the contacts — calling them only "constructive and businesslike and problem-solving" — but noted that he raised U.S. assertions that Shiite militias receive weapons and assistance across the border from Iran.

The chief Iranian envoy, Abbas Araghchi, said he restated his country's demands for a clear timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces, which he insisted have made Iraq a magnet for extremists from across the Muslim world.

Despite the request of al -Maliki, Iran pressed on about the release of 5 Iranians captured during a raid on the Iraqi city of Arbil and accused the United States of fanning the flames of terrorism and sectarian violence in Iraq.

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