- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 26, 2009

MONTERREY, MEXICO (AP) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday that Iran has a role to play in the region that includes neighboring Afghanistan and she hopes it will be constructive.

Clinton told reporters in Monterrey, Mexico, that the United States will continue to reach out to Iran, even though earlier efforts were unsuccessful. President Barack Obama’s outreach to Iran in a video message recently was rebuffed by Iranian leaders.

Iran has accepted an invitation to a conference on Afghanistan next week at The Hague, Netherlands, that also will be attended by the U.S.

U.S. State Department officials have said no substantive meetings are planned between the U.S. and the Iranians.

But Clinton reaffirmed U.S. hopes that Iran will help in stabilizing Afghanistan.

“Iran borders Afghanistan,” she said. “It has a role to play in the region and we hope it will be a constructive role.”

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rejected Obama’s outreach, saying Tehran was still waiting to see concrete changes in U.S. policy. Obama spoke out to Iran on the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian new year, and expressed hopes for an improvement in nearly 30 years of strained relations. Clinton said those efforts will continue.

“We are doing what President Obama said we would do. We are reaching out to the Iranian leadership, but equally importantly, to the Iranian people. That was certainly the spirit in which the president extended new year’s greetings,” she said.

“We have a long-held view that there are going to be difficult obstacles to engaging in the short run with the Iranians, but we are going to continue to reach out,” she said.

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