| GEO World|
| Iran at Afghan meeting a 'step forward': Holbrooke|
| Updated at: 0712 PST, Saturday, March 28, 2009|
WASHINGTON: A top US envoy on Friday welcomed Iran's participation to next week's Afghanistan conference as a "step forward," saying Washington and Tehran share common interests.
"We believe that the Iranians and the United States have some common interests in strategic stability" in Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke told US public television network.
"This conference is not an American conference, it's a UN conference. Sixty nations are coming and one of them is Iran. I think the United States feels that that's a step forward," said Holbrooke, a special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
His comments came after President Barack Obama unveiled a new strategy on Afghanistan in which he proposed a new contact group that includes Iran.
Iran, which has not had diplomatic relations with the United States for nearly three decades, did not attend the last international conference on Afghanistan when George W. Bush was still US president.
Obama has reached out to Iran, sending an unprecedented video appeal last week for the Persian New Year in which he spoke of a "new beginning" between the two countries.
Despite their rivalry, the United States and Shiite-majority Iran are both sworn enemies of the Taliban, a Sunni Muslim militia initially backed by Pakistan that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.