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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-27-2007, 07:43 PM Thread Starter
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Is the drug-induced haze starting to lift?

U.S. to join Iraq, Iran, Syria in 'neighbors' conference'

WASHINGTON -- In a significant diplomatic shift, the Bush administration announced Tuesday that it will join Iran and Syria at the table during a "neighbors' conference" in Iraq to discuss how to stabilize the security situation there.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made the announcement in a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee on the administration's request for additional war funding. She said the U.S. would "fully support" the Iraqi government's diplomatic initiative, noting that Baghdad had invited both Iran and Syria to attend.

Rice added, "We hope that all governments will seize this opportunity to improve their relations with Iraq and to work for peace and stability in the region."

The Bush administration has accused both Syria and Iran of fueling the violence in Iraq, and before Tuesday it had resisted urgings to engage the two countries, including a recommendation from the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.

Administration officials asserted Tuesday that this was not a new U.S. effort to engage Iran and Syria, but it did seem to be an abrupt change, given what both President Bush and Rice have said about engagement with the two countries.

"We've participated in international meetings with the Iranians before," said a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official pointed to a ministerial meeting on Iraq held at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in November 2004. "We never said that we would never be in the same room with the Iranians in a multilateral forum," the official said.

The first meeting, at which the U.S. is to be represented by Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, is planned for mid-March, at the sub-ministerial level. Invitees would include the countries surrounding Iraq, as well as members of the Arab League and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: the U.S., Britain, France, China and Russia.

Syria will be represented at the conference by Ahmed Arnous, an aide to the foreign minister, an Iraqi Foreign Ministry official told The Associated Press.

Plans call for that meeting to be followed by a full ministerial-level meeting with the same invited countries, plus members of the G-8 group of leading industrial powers. Rice will most likely represent the U.S. at this meeting, which may take place as early as the first half of April.

The Iraq Study Group, headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), recommended in December that the administration invite Iran and Syria to this kind of a regional meeting. At that time, President Bush rejected the idea.

Rice, in her January testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, talked about a new "alignment of forces" in the region that divided democratic governments from extremist ones, and said that Iran and Syria belonged to the latter group.

"We do have a regional approach," she said at the time. "It is to work with those governments that share our view of where the Middle East should be going."

The announcement Tuesday came less than two weeks after the U.S. accused Iran of supplying sophisticated roadside bombs to Iraqi insurgents for attacks that have killed at least 170 members of the U.S.-led coalition.

While the U.S. has agreed to talk with Iran about the situation in Iraq, it continues to face off against Iran over its nuclear program. U.S. officials say Iran's program is aimed at developing nuclear weapons, but Tehran says is intended to be a new source of energy. A United Nations-imposed deadline for Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment expired last week, and in response the U.S. wants the Security Council to expand the sanctions imposed on Iran.

The White House emphasized that these talks were not efforts to engage the Iranians on their nuclear program.

"The agenda is being set up by the government of Iraq, and the conditions especially for bilateral conversations with the Iranians are pretty clear," spokesman Tony Snow said. "The P5 plus one [the Security Council's permanent members plus Germany] have put together a series of offers to the Iranian government, and it knows that if it takes certain steps, then conversations will follow."

Still, Senate Democrats—who are debating whether to try to repeal the 2002 measure authorizing the war—applauded the move.

"The administration is right to reverse itself and engage Iran and Syria on Iraq," said Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. "I hope this means that clearer heads in the administration are beginning to prevail."

This will be the second regional meeting of Iraq's neighbors since the establishment of a permanent Iraqi government under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki last spring.

"Maliki is conscious that Sunni Arabs think his government is a projection of Iranian influence. He wants to help change that perception," said the senior U.S. administration official, explaining the idea behind the diplomatic initiative.

The previous meeting, however, was held in July—in Tehran. Said the administration official, "We weren't invited to that one."

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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-27-2007, 09:40 PM
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What a farce.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-28-2007, 03:27 AM
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I think they are going to do the samething the sneaky white man did with the American Indians, get those Muslims drunked up on firewater and trade them beads and shiny glass for oil and hands off Iraq. Dick can pull this one off in his sleep.
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-28-2007, 05:10 AM
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But can you pull your dick off in your sleep, now that's a question.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-28-2007, 05:12 AM
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Do they need blankets?
post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-28-2007, 06:00 AM
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where is the best deal maker ever, Anthony Wayne, when you need him?

in political asylum
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