AFP: Afghan President Hamid Karzai is to visit Iran to attend an economic summit of regional countries beginning Wednesday in Tehran, Hamshahri newspaper reported.
TEHRAN (AFP) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai is to visit Iran to attend an economic summit of regional countries beginning Wednesday in Tehran, Hamshahri newspaper reported.
The newspaper, quoting Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi, said Sunday that the presidents of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkey along with the heads of other regional countries would attend the summit.
Karzai's visit to Iran gains significance as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday that Iran would be invited for an international conference later this month to solve the crisis in Afghanistan.
Clinton's remark was the latest overture by the US administration of President Barack Obama towards arch-foe Iran with whom Washington has had no diplomatic relations for three decades.
Tehran officials have said that they will consider an invitation to attend a summit on Afghanistan, adding that the problems plaguing its war-torn neighbour cannot be solved without its involvement.
"The US and global powers have realised that the issues in Afghanistan cannot be solved without the presence of the Islamic republic," Iranian government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters on Saturday.
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran had yet to decide whether to take part in the conference but was not ruling it out.
"I am not saying that we will not take part, but that we are considering whether we will attend," according to his comments on Serbian state television.
"Our strategy is the return of peace and stability to Afghanistan," he added.
Arch-foes Tehran and Washington share several common interests in bringing stability to violence-wracked Afghanistan.
Iran is suffering badly from the effects of opium production in Afghanistan, with easily available heroin fuelling a rise in drug use.
Iranians also have close ethnic and religious ties with Afghanistan and armed the opposition to the Sunni Muslim Taliban militia that ruled the country until its overthrow by US-led troops following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
At Tehran's economic summit the presidents of Iraq and the Qatari emir will be honourary guests, Ghashghavi said.
The United Nations General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann who is on a six-day visit to Iran will also be one of the guests at the summit, one of his advisors told AFP on Saturday.
The summit will focus on how the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) — formed in 1985 by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey — will deal with the world financial crisis.