Britain wants Iran at the heart of Afghan stability


London : A British Foreign Office spokesman has said it is important for his country to see Iran “at the heart of efforts” to achieve political and economic stability in Afghanistan.

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Barry Marston told IRNA recently that the upcoming Afghanistan conference in London should be seen as a “key landmark” in the international community’s shift to a supporting role, with Afghans themselves increasingly in the lead.

He added that Iran is a “significant” regional state and neighbor of Afghanistan which can play a great role in bringing political and economic stability to Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan Conference is due to be held Thursday next week in London. The British government had earlier announced that a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops would be sketched in the conference.

Many countries including some European partners of Britain as well as Afghanistan’s neighbors have cast doubt on the success of the Afghanistan Conference in London.

They believed that the main goal of the British government in holding the conference is to exploit it for party and political purposes as the popularity of the Labour Party has sharply declined and there are increasing opposition to the war in Afghanistan.

More than 70 per cent of the British public opinion, according to the latest surveys, believed that the continuation of the war in Afghanistan is not acceptable and the British government should withdraw troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year.

Marston agreed that Afghanistan was of great significance to British public opinion but rejected that the Afghanistan Conference in London would be a PR campaign to satisfy the people.

“People care about the well-being of British troops and are aware that instability in Afghanistan has international consequences. But it is unfair and inaccurate to portray this conference in the context of party political considerations,” he said.

The British Foreign Office spokesman added that the London conference would be an “important opportunity for substantive collaboration in coordinating our efforts and mapping out the way ahead”.

“There are a large number of parties with an interest in progress in Afghanistan. There are around 40 countries supporting the NATO effort; there are many significant neighboring and regional states, Iran amongst them, and Afghans themselves.”

Marston said the goal of the conference is to help create a stable and secure Afghanistan that could “exercise sovereignty over all its territory, offers its people representative government and the conditions for economic prosperity”.

“This is a long-term task with many challenges, but we are determined to work with the international community to achieve this goal and it is important to us to see key neighboring countries like Iran at the heart of efforts to achieve this.”

The Foreign Office comments come days after Iran’s Foreign Ministry cast doubt on the fruitfulness and end results of the London Conference.

Ramin Mihman-Parast, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, said the main goal of the conference was to “resolve the domestic problems of Britain and not Afghanistan.”

He said many countries which were opposed to the Afghan war believed that the London conference agenda “cannot affect Afghanistan in a positive manner.”

On Monday, a Stop the War Coalition spokesman told IRNA the anti-war campaign was organising large demonstration outside the London conference venue.

Rabin Beste added that protestors are going to surround the conference venue in order to show their opposition to the Afghan war.

Some 249 British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan so far, resulting in growing opposition to the war and declining popularity of the ruling Labour Party.

A public opinion this week suggested that the Conservatives are ahead of the Labors followed by the Liberal Democrats. Some 42 per cent of the British people are supporting the Conservative Party while 29 are in favor of the Labour.