Clinton says US met with Iran delegate
Iran denies any encounter at Tuesday's Afghanistan Conference in the Hague. The US and Iran have had no diplomatic ties for 30 years.
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The conference, which drew together representatives of 83 nations to emphasize the international effort behind the reconstruction of Afghanistan, follows last Friday's announcement of renewed efforts to confront instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in which President Obama warned that Al Qaeda "is actively planning attacks on the US homeland from its safe haven in Pakistan," The New York Times reports.Skip to next paragraph
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President Obama promised neither to write a "blank check" nor to "blindly stay the course" if his risky new strategy, which includes the addition of 4,000 troops in a training role and several benchmarks for judging progress, does not achieve its ambitious goals. He had already ordered 17,000 combat troops to Afghanistan soon after taking office.
Shortly after Mr. Obama's speech on Friday, Richard C. Holbrooke, the president's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, noted the corrosive role of instability and terrorist safe havens in western Pakistan, and said that the United States could not abandon the region.
"We can leave as the Afghans deal with their own security problems," Mr. Holbrooke said. "That's what the president put emphasis on today on training the national army, training the policy."
"The exit strategy," he went on, "includes governance, corruption, but above all, and this is the single most difficult aspect of what we are talking about today, it requires dealing with Western Pakistan."
Read the administration's white paper on US policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan here.
Clinton was a strong proponent of Iranian participation in the conference, and British and US reaction to their presence was positive. Speaking to reporters, Clinton called it "a promising sign that there will be future co-operation," says The Guardian.
"These are just tentative beginnings. This might be spring in the relationship. There may well be some winter frosts left to come as well," Lord Malloch Brown, representing Britain at the conference, cautioned afterwards.
However, he said the Iranian role at The Hague could represent a turning point. Since 2002, he said, "Afghan strategy has been fought with one hand tied behind our backs."
"There is a completeness to having them back at the table," he added. "There is a meeting of minds on drugs, development issues and the [August Afghan] elections, though not on foreign troops, on which they made clear their objections."
The Associated Press reports that the letter Clinton says the US delivered to Iran requested help locating three Americans who have been arrested or disappeared there in recent years. Those are Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent turned private investigator, and two Iranian-Americans, journalist Roxana Saberi and graduate student Esha Momeni.
The AP reports that Levinson "disappeared" while investigating cigarette smuggling for his private security firm and has not been seen or heard from in two years. He was last seen on Iran's Kish Island on March 8, 2007.
The others are dual nationals who were arrested by Iranian security forces. Ms. Saberi was detained on Feb. 10 when her press credentials expired, and Ms. Momeni, a women's rights advocate, was jailed on a traffic violation on October 15.