TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran has played a positive role in preparations for a conference on Iraq here this week at which it was hoped US and Iranian delegates could hold bilateral talks, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said in Stockholm Wednesday on the eve of the meeting.
“In so far as they have been involved, yes, their role has been positive,” said Bildt of the Iranian delegation.
Sweden is organizing the first follow-up meeting, starting in Stockholm Thursday, of the so-called International Compact with Iraq (ICI) drawing some 100 delegations.
“On the bilateral dialogue with Iran, (when) we’ve talked to Iranian diplomatic representatives, we find that the policies they present are constructive ones,” the minister told AFP.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki were both set to attend the conference, but no meeting between the two is officially scheduled.
“I don’t expect Condi Rice and Mottaki to sit down and hug each other. I think it is very unlikely,” said Bildt.
But Washington and Tehran will each have large delegations present, and “they are interested in talking to each other, I know that,” he said.
“I think it is very important they talk to each other,” Bildt stressed, adding he would encourage them to do so during his bilateral talks with each side.
Both Iranian and US officials have already dismissed possibility for bilateral talks.
The Stockholm conference is aimed at assessing the progress being made in Iraq under the ICI, a five-year peace and economic development plan for the war-torn country adopted in May 2007 at an international conference at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
At that meeting more than 60 countries and organizations promised to cancel 30 billion dollars (19 billion euros) of Iraqi debt.
“I think the importance of the Stockholm conference is that we (the international community) are taking the process seriously,” Bildt said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is hosting the conference together with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said before leaving for Sweden he hoped the international community would agree to Iraqi debt relief and reduce war reparations.
But Bildt said that was “not the subject of this conference. There are separate talks going on.”
He expressed “cautious optimism” on the progress made in Iraq over the past year.
“There is a long way to go but the situation is better now than it was a year ago. There have been improvements in the security situation, off and on,” he said.