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Iran Will Attend Meeting in New York to Discuss Future of Afghanistan

Iran's foreign minister says he will attend a meeting in New York later this month to discuss the future of Afghanistan, but denies there are plans to meet separately with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said Saturday he will attend a ministerial meeting of the six-plus-two group later this month. The group is comprised of the six countries bordering on Afghanistan, plus the United States and Russia.

Speaking to reporters in Tehran, Mr. Kharazi said Iran would present its views on the situation in Afghanistan, but he said there are no plans for him to meet separately with Secretary of State Powell.

The State Department in Washington has said Mr. Powell would attend the meeting, and there had been reports the two men might take this opportunity for face-to-face talks.

Iran was quick to condemn the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States, but remains opposed to U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan. Both Tehran and Washington are opposed to Afghanistan's Taleban rulers, but Iran wants to have a say in any future Afghan government.

Iran also remains deeply suspicious of American intentions in the region. Mr. Kharazi said Iran cannot be indifferent to a U.S. presence in the area. He also questioned American intentions and voiced concerns the United States may be trying to dominate central Asia and establish permanent bases.

Those concerns are voiced by other Iranian politicians as well as political analysts here in Tehran.

At the same time, Iranian moderates also believe that the present global political climate amid efforts to forge an anti-terrorism coalition provides a unique opportunity to start a dialogue with the United States and move toward normalizing relations.

However, Iranian conservatives continue to resist any move in that direction. Recently, Iran's Supreme Spiritual Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said dialogue with the United States is not in Iran's national interest.

Foreign Minister Kharazi spoke to reporters in Tehran Saturday with visiting Greek Foreign Minister Georges Papandreou. Mr. Papandreou called for an international conference on terrorism.