Iraq Invites Syria, Iran For Talks

A man looks at a destroyed minibus in a predominantly Shiite district of Karrada in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday Feb. 1, 2007. Police said six people were killed and eight were wounded when a bomb planted on the bus exploded. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed

Iraq invited officials from Iran, Syria and other neighboring nations to Baghdad next month to discuss the security situation in the country, a government official said Thursday.

The Foreign Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information, said the talks will be the first of 10 such meetings to take place in the Iraqi capital. Iran was the venue for the last meeting in July.

Along with Iran and Syria, Iraq has invited Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to the discussions. The Arab League, Organization of Islamic Conference and the United Nations also have been asked to attend, the official said.

The United States and the Iraqi government have accused Syria of allowing foreign fighters to cross into Iraq and fight coalition and Iraqi forces. The U.S. has accused Iran of giving support to Shiite militias.

Both countries deny the charges.

CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer recently interviewed Syria's vice president (read more here), asking him about the role his country might play — whether or not the U.S. likes it — in stabilizing Iraq.

Vice President Farouk al Shara would not confirm or deny a meeting in Syria, with the approval of his government, of about 200 senior Baathists and militia members from Iraq to discuss laying down arms to earn a chair at the negotiating table.

Thursday, the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported Syrian President Bashar Assad had stressed his country's eagerness to promote Iraq's security, stability and territorial unity during a meeting with Sheik Harith al-Dhari, head of the powerful Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq.

In other developments:

  • At least nine people were killed in Baghdad Thursday as a bomb tore through a minibus in a predominantly Shiite commercial district. The blast killed at least six people and wounded eight, police said. It struck in the district of Karradah, which has been hit by several bombings in recent weeks as insurgents try to maximize the number of people killed before a planned U.S.-security crackdown.

  • Mortar rounds slammed into a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad for the third day in a row, killing at least three people and wounding 10, hospital officials said. Five mortar rounds struck the streets of Azamiyah on Thursday morning, according to officials who gave the casualty toll. The Sunni area has been hit daily by mortar attacks since Tuesday, when at least five people were killed and 20 wounded in apparent retaliation for insurgent bombings against Shiite areas coinciding with the Shiite holy day of Ashoura.

  • The U.S. military said that a soldier died Thursday of wounds sustained in fighting in Anbar province. The soldier assigned to Multi National Force — West was killed after being wounded in fighting on Tuesday in the Sunni insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad, the military said in a statement. The soldier was not identified pending notification of relatives.
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      Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.

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