Iraqi PM Asks International Community for Help Officials from 14 countries and three international bodies are took part in a conference on Iraqi security Saturday in Baghdad. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked attendees for help in smothering the violence that is tearing his country apart.
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Iraqi PM Asks International Community for Help

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Iraqi PM Asks International Community for Help

Iraqi PM Asks International Community for Help

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Today's international conference in Baghdad on ways to combat the growing violence and civil war in Iraq has ended. Mid-level officials from 14 countries and three international bodies, including the United Nations, attended. But the spotlight was focused on the meeting between the U.S. and Iranian delegates, the first such direct talks in years. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad says the talks were constructive and businesslike.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson joins us from Baghdad. Soraya, thanks for being with us.


SIMON: And what happened at this conference?

NELSON: Well, with very little that we can talk about, because we were not actually in the meetings, but afterward - it was a closed-door meeting - and afterward the foreign minister of Iraq came out, as did the U.S. ambassador, to talk about what happened behind those closed doors.

The Iraq foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, said that the meetings were constructive and that he was happy, that things would move forward. Committees will be formed to deal with the issues of displaced people, with oil - getting more oil to Iraq, because it's unable to process all of its own; as well as dealing with security concerns along the borders.

Meanwhile, the U.S. ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, said - he also described the meeting as constructive and businesslike, and most importantly talked a little bit more about what went on between the American and the Iranian delegations, which were the first talks ever in quite a while.

SIMON: What we wanted to follow up on with you, as you say, it's a closed-door meeting, but can you tell what the conversations between the U.S. and Iranian delegates were about?

NELSON: Well, the foreign minister of Iraq referred to detainees, which appeared to allude to Iranian officials who are in American - or believed to be in American custody - and the Americans did not speak about that. In fact, Mr. Khalilzad spoke more about the concerns that the United States has about Iran in terms of whether Iran is supplying arms to insurgents here. And he also described the meeting between the two sides as being constructive and businesslike, and left it at that.

SIMON: Soraya, the Iraqis have been pretty outspoken about saying that they don't want the concentration - or the fascination, maybe we should put it - with the meeting between U.S./Iranian delegates to come at the expense of overlooking some of the Iraqi concerns.

NELSON: Yes, they were very concerned about that and expressed that in several different forms, and it sounded today as if all the parties involved in fact focused on issues concerning Iraq. So they focused on things like insurgents crossing from Syria, those allegations, arms crossing from Iran to Iraq, but more importantly focused on the need to deal with the most pressing issues here, which are the violence, displaced people, and getting the economy rolling again.

SIMON: In looking ahead to what might be next, there will be another meeting, I guess, that's already been scheduled for Turkey?

NELSON: Well, actually, that was what we were told initially, but it seems now that Iraq is still making a decision about whether to hold it in Cairo or in Istanbul, which both countries offered to host the next level of meeting there. And in fact at that meeting, it would be the foreign ministers and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who will be attending. But Iraq did not indicate when they would reach their decision.

SIMON: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Baghdad. Thank you very much.

NELSON: You're welcome.

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