Afghanistan Is Focus Of Summit In The Hague

Preparations are underway in The Hague for Tuesday's international summit on Afghanistan. More than 80 nations are expected to participate. Afghan neighbor Iran announced last week that it would attend. U.S. officials have said they hope Iran intends to play a positive role in regards to Afghanistan.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

When leaders of more than 80 nations get together tomorrow for a summit on Afghanistan, it will be another country that many are concerned about. The international summit in The Hague will find a lot of delegates focused on Iran. Jerome Socolovsky reports.

JEROME SOCOLOVSKY: This is the big tent meeting that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked the Netherlands to organize. The idea is to bring together countries with troops or aid operations in Afghanistan, as well as its neighbors. Support for the peacekeeping mission is sagging in Europe.

Last Friday, President Obama announced an increase in U.S. troops and aid. He described al-Qaida as a cancer that also threatens neighboring Pakistan. Another neighbor, Iran, has supplied weapons to the Taliban, but the conference host, Netherlands' Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen, told Dutch television yesterday that Tehran is concerned about Afghanistan's drug production, which accounts for 90 percent of the world's heroine.

Mr. MAXIME VERHAGEN (Foreign Minister, The Netherlands): (Foreign language spoken)

SOCOLOVSKY: That's why it's so important that countries such as Iran and Pakistan are present, Verhagen said. Last week, U.S. State Department Spokesman Gordon Duguid was asked about Iran's recent decision to participate in the Hague conference.

Mr. GORDON DUGUID (State Department Spokesman): The Iranians have not always played a helpful role in Afghanistan. We are hoping that their attendance here is a demonstration that they are planning to play a positive role in regards to Afghanistan.

SOCOLOVSKY: But after 30 years of acrimony and continued concerns over Iran's nuclear program, U.S. diplomats are cautioning against expecting a breakthrough.

For NPR News, I'm Jerome Socolovsky.

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