EU says will invite Iran to Afghan conference

PRAGUE  – The European Union said on Wednesday it would invite Iran to a conference on Afghanistan.

Calls have grown in the international community to engage Iran in both regional diplomacy and in direct talks on Tehran’s nuclear program.

EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the planned conference would take place in Islamabad, Pakistan, in the next few months and should address issues of cooperation among countries in the central Asian region.

She added Iran would also be invited to a seminar with the European Commission to prepare the conference.

“It’s very important to work with all the different players in the region,” Ferrero-Waldner said after talks with Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta in Prague.

“At this regional conference … and at least to our preparatory conference, we will invite Iran,” she said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative party has proposed setting up a contact group for Afghanistan that would include the U.N. Security Council permanent members as well as Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Iran.

New U.S. President Barack Obama has also taken a fresh approach to Iran, saying he was ready for direct talks.

European nations are bracing for demands from the Obama administration that they do more in Afghanistan.

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