The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Iran talks Iraq

New Delhi, July 21: India and Iran today exchanged views on Iraq and the “constructive role” both countries could play in the war-ravaged nation.

The visiting deputy foreign minister of Iran, M. Aminzade, held a five-hour discussion with foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal this afternoon on issues of bilateral, regional and international importance. Aminzade also met foreign minister Yashwant Sinha and national security adviser Brajesh Mishra.

The interaction between Aminzade and Sibal was part of the security dialogue between India and Iran that was kicked off in early 2001 during Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit to Tehran.

Iran, one of the countries on the American “axis of evil”, is worried over the developments in Iraq after the US-led war to overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime. Tehran’s worry is two-fold. One, Iraq may undermine Iran’s supremacy as the seat of Shia power in the world if Najaf and Karbala wrested more prominence.

Another is the worry of being targeted by the American gun. Tehran’s nuclear programme has sparked concern in the West and there is increased pressure on Iran to open its programme to international inspection. Resisting the move will mean renewed pressure from Washington.

Aminzade said Iran can play a “constructive role” in Iraq. Some diplomats here see this as Tehran’s attempt to convey to the US that it is not keen on playing a “spoiler’s role” in Iraq’s stabilisation.

At the same time, however, Tehran wants its interests taken care of. This effectively means Tehran wants to play a role in a future regime that may be set up to restore peace and normality to Iraq.

Sinha conveyed to Aminzade Delhi’s reasons for deciding against participating in the stabilisation effort in Iraq without an explicit UN mandate. But India was willing to contribute significantly to the restoration of infrastructure and other emergency services for the Iraqi people, he said.

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