NATO hopes for more Iran talks on Afghanistan

Spokesman calls Friday's meeting on Afghanistan another good step in engaging Iran in int'l effort.

Afghan policemen 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Afghan policemen 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
NATO expects to hold further talks with Iran about cooperating in the war in Afghanistan after the first high-level meeting between the two in 30 years, a spokesman said Friday. The talks came after NATO's secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer urged the US and other members of the Western military alliance to engage with the Shiite nation to combat Taliban militants in Afghanistan. On March 9, NATO Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Martin Erdmann and Iran's ambassador to the European Union, Ali-Asghar Khaji, held the first meeting between the two sides since the Iranian revolution three decades ago. "The Iranians have problems with drugs and refugees flowing out of Afghanistan (and) so do we," said NATO spokesman James Appathurai. "There is certainly a common interest there." "This is another good step in engaging Iran in the international community's effort (in Afghanistan)," he said. "I'm sure there will be follow-up meetings." President Barack Obama is due to make an announcement Friday about bolstering US troops in Afghanistan to try to hasten the end of a conflict that still has no clear end in sight. Securing alternative routes to landlocked Afghanistan other than through neighboring Pakistan, where insurgents have attacked convoys, has taken on added urgency as the United States prepares to deploy 17,000 more troops to battle a resurgent Taliban eight years after the US-led invasion. Obama is expected on Friday to confirm thousands more troops. NATO's top military commander, Gen. John Craddock had suggested that individual member nations could strike deals with Teheran to supply their forces in Afghanistan via Iran. Some experts have suggested that nations with good relations with Iran such as France, Germany and Italy should try to set up an alternative supply route to western Afghanistan via Char Bahar, a port in southeastern Iran. Appathurai said the issue of alternative routes was not discussed by Erdmann and Khaji. But he said there were likely to be more such meetings in the future. Teheran already has accepted an invitation to a conference on Afghanistan next week at The Hague, Netherlands, that also will be attended by the US.