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Leaders and Officials Gather for Tehran Summit

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the top United Nations envoy to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, are in Iran for a regional economic summit focusing, in part, on efforts to rebuild Afghanistan.

Mr. Karzai is expected to address the Economic Cooperation Organization summit that begins Wednesday, March 11. The ECO says it will review progress made so far in Afghanistan, consider new projects, and review transit and trade agreements.

Host Iran also says the global economic crisis will be a major topic of discussion.

The leaders of ECO member states Turkey, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan also are gathering in Tehran for the summit.

Iran's state news agency reports that officials from non-member states Iraq and Syria have arrived in the capital to attend the conference. Iraq is being represented by President Jalal Talabani and Syria by Vice President Farouk al-Shara.

Iranian media also report that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, signed several trade agreements Tuesday.

Ministerial-level meetings to prepare for Wednesday's summit concluded Monday. During those talks, Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki appealed to neighboring nations to enact current agreements meant to boost regional commercial ties.

The ECO is an economic, technical and cultural organization of 10 Central and Western Asian nations. It was founded in 1985 by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey and today includes Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.