TOKYO - A meeting of Pakistan's allies and donors this week could give Iran a chance to show willingness to play a more active role in stabilizing the region, Japan's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan said on Wednesday.
Japanese envoy Motohide Yoshikawa also said that Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke will have a chance to chat at Friday's gatherings in Tokyo, but whether to talk is for them to decide.
Donors led by the United States and Japan are expected to pledge about $4 billion at a donors meeting, but will also try to spur the nuclear-armed country to more urgent action against an increasingly formidable Islamist insurgency.
Pakistan is central to U.S. President Barack Obama's plan for South Asia, which includes trying to stabilize Afghanistan, where Taliban militants -- many operating from lawless northwest Pakistani enclaves -- have thrown U.S. success into doubt.
We have made efforts to bring Iranians into open international discussions for both Afghanistan and Pakistan and the response by the Iranians so far has been very positive, Yoshikawa said. Japan has traditionally had close ties with Iran.
One of the reasons clearly is the change of attitude of the United States ... And their (Iran's) agenda that they want to be seen as playing a positive role, he said.
We are very pleased as host to have the foreign minister from Iran, and he will not come empty handed, Yoshikawa said.
He has to say something. We will give him the floor.
Obama has rolled back George W. Bush's policy of isolating Iran, and U.S. officials have sought out Iranian representatives at recent international meetings.
In another major shift, the United States joined Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain in asking European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solan to find a diplomatic solution to Iran's disputed nuclear work.
Iran said on Wednesday it had prepared a package to resolve its nuclear dispute with world powers, but gave no details.
Iran has criticized the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan as encouraging radicalism there.
But Tehran offered at a U.N. meeting in The Hague on March 31 to help Afghanistan combat drugs and on Monday said it was ready to help train Afghan police for that effort.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi expressed agreement that Iran had a key role to play in the region.
When you talk about a regional approach to dealing with terrorism and extremism, Iran is an important player to the region, he told a news conference in Tokyo.
The new Obama administration, in my view, has rightly also extended an olive branch to Iran.
Yoshikawa said Mottaki and Holbrooke would have a chance to chat at a luncheon to be hosted on Friday by Japan's foreign minister for delegates to the meetings, but stopped short of predicting an exchange would occur.
If they both decide to go to the luncheon, they will be in the same room, he said.