Iran General NewsTehran plans to attend Kabul talks

Tehran plans to attend Kabul talks

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Wall Street Journal: Iran will send its foreign minister to an international conference in Kabul next week, a senior British official said, after snubbing an earlier round of multilateral talks aimed at revitalizing Afghanistan’s stability efforts.

The Wall Street Journal

By ALISTAIR MACDONALD

Iran will send its foreign minister to an international conference in Kabul next week, a senior British official said, after snubbing an earlier round of multilateral talks aimed at revitalizing Afghanistan’s stability efforts.

The conference comes as Afghanistan and Western nations, including the U.S., disagree on issues such as how much international aid should go through the Afghan government and timetables for the war-torn country to agree to anticorruption and governance safeguards, a person familiar with the matter said.

Part of the meeting’s agenda is to bring Afghanistan’s neighbors together, a theme that was undermined by Iran when it declined Britain’s invite to January’s London conference. Even Iran’s London ambassador failed to show, prompting strong words from then U.K. Foreign Minister David Miliband.

This time, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki will attend the conference hosted by the Afghan government, the official said.

High on Afghanistan’s agenda for this conference is to persuade more donor countries to run at least half of their aid budgets through them, rather than operate independently.

While some have agreed, including the U.K. and some Scandinavian countries, the U.S. is holding out, the person familiar with the matter said.

The U.S. typically likes to take charge of its own aid budgets and feels that the Afghans haven’t moved fast enough to root out corruption, this person said.

The U.S. isn’t alone, though, with other countries still not agreeing to the 50% level.

Donor nations have been pressing for more commitments in the conference’s end communique on Afghanistan’s anticorruption and governance drive.

They are also pushing for a clearer time table on its targets.

But some countries have been disappointed with Afghanistan’s response, the person familiar with the matter said.

These issues are likely to get pushed back until after the conference, they said.

There are signs that the Afghans are attempting to get their house in order, however. Some Afghan ministries have been meeting in “clusters,” headed by seniors ministers, to set out 100-day plans to make institutions work more effectively.

This is “to make these ministries functions as better and more normal institutions,” the British official said. “Afghanistan is desperately short of workable institutions.”

At London’s January conference, Afghanistan agreed to timetables for taking control of certain military functions in the war-torn country, and rolled out details of a new fund to lure Taliban insurgents back to mainstream life.

The Afghans will take the lead in securing the most-volatile parts of the country within three years, with the first provinces potentially passing to Afghan control by the end of this year, according to a communique issued as the conference ended.

Though officials say that was never meant to be a strict timetable, the plan appears to have been put back as the war continues.

“By next spring we expect that the first handful of provinces to be transitioned will have been announced and we expect the NATO summit in October to have laid out the process,” the British official said.

Meanwhile, an Iranian official said at least 20 Shiite worshippers were killed in twin bombings outside a mosque in southeastern Iran on Thursday, the Associated Press reported. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks.

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