10 January 2002

U.S. Wants to Cooperate With Iran in Afghanistan

Boucher echoes President's hopes

State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said January 10 that the United States was willing to work with Iran on the reconstruction of Afghanistan, but still had concerns with the government in Tehran.

Referring to President Bush's January 10 statement, Boucher said at the regular State Department press briefing that the United States had seen positive signals from Iran. The President had expressed his hope that Iran would continue to cooperate against the Taliban and al Qaida.

"We want to be able to work with the Iranians, but they are going to have to work -- they need to be an active part of the coalition, is the way the President put it," said Boucher.

Boucher cited recent meetings in Bonn and New York where the U.S. and Iran had worked together with other nations to support a broad-based government in Afghanistan. He also said a meeting was being planned in Kabul, "to have our embassies there coordinate in support of the new interim authority and the broad-based government that we all work to achieve."

Boucher said Secretary of State Colin Powell was scheduled to meet the Iranian foreign minister in Tokyo later this month at an international conference on reconstruction assistance for Afghanistan.

Following is an excerpt from the January 10 State Department Press Briefing:

Question: I was wondering if you shared the view described in a front-page article in the New York Times and attributed to Pentagon and intelligence officials that Iran is actively trying to undermine the new government in Afghanistan and giving haven to al-Qaida fighters, and if you're doing anything about it.

Mr. Boucher: Let me see what I can say on the subject of Iran. I think the most important thing is probably to quote the President. I'm not sure I have much to add on it, but let me double-check.

Yes, I think I would really stay with what the President said. We saw some positive signals, have some concerns. We want to be able to work with the Iranians, but they are going to have to work -- they need to be an active part of the coalition, is the way the President put it.

I would note that we have worked with the Iranians, at the Bonn meetings, for example. We have worked with the Iranians in the Six Plus Two process, such as the meetings the Secretary had in New York. The Iranians have committed themselves, and indeed in Bonn worked to try to bring about a broad-based government for Afghanistan. We want to see that kind of support continue.

And, actually, we are trying to continue to use the Six Plus Two mechanism to work with the Iranians to support a broad-based government for Afghanistan. We are currently discussing with other governments the possibility of having Six Plus Two kind of meetings in Kabul, to have our embassies there coordinate in support of the new interim authority and the broad-based government that we all work to achieve.

Question: When are you thinking of having this --

Mr. Boucher: Kabul.

Question: When?

Mr. Boucher: Oh, when? In the coming weeks.

Question: On the same subject, the Secretary is not going to be the only foreign minister attending the Afghan Reconstruction Conference in Tokyo. I believe the Iranian Foreign Minister is as well. And since they have had at least one previous semi-cordial meeting at the UN, is this something -- these concerns that have been expressed -- it might be something that could be raised in some kind of a forum, maybe a kind of Musharraf-Vajpayee handshake and a small amount of words in Tokyo?

Mr. Boucher: I don't know. I don't know. We'll take the suggestion, but there's no plan at this point that I know of.

Question: Can you take the question that I asked about this problem with the Iranians?

Mr. Boucher: I think that's as much as I'm able to say about it at this point.





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