Iran to Join South Asia Bloc as Observer

 The South Asian regional grouping SAARC approved observer status for Iran alongside the United States and the European Union, an Indian minister said. China, Japan, South Korea, the European Union and the United States had already been granted observer status and attended the April 3-4 South Asian summit hosted by New Delhi.

“It was for the first time that five observers from outside attended this summit,” Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters.

“It was also decided that a similar status be given to Iran,” Mukherjee said at the end of the 14th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation or SAARC, which groups Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and newcomer Afghanistan.

The move came despite objections from Western powers.

Iran will be an observer at the SAARC summit scheduled to be held in the Maldives in 2008.

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