Iraq conference: ‘Al-Qaeda will not be invited’

A United Nations conference on the international community's support for Iraq's development will take place in Sweden on May 29th, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said on Thursday.

Iraq conference: 'Al-Qaeda will not be invited'

The conference, which will be the first follow-up meeting after the launch of the five-year International Compact with Iraq (ICI) peace and development plan in Sharm el-Sheikh last May, aims to “strengthen the international role in Iraq,” Bildt told reporters in Stockholm.

“There is great international interest in both stability and progress in the state-building process in Iraq,” he said, adding that the conference would be hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The Swedish government announced last week that Ban and Maliki had asked it to host the conference.

Invitations had yet to go out, Bildt said, adding that while representation at a ministerial level was expected from most UN-member countries it remained unclear who would participate.

Chief conference organizer Krister Kumlin meanwhile said some 600 participants from around 80 delegations would probably show up for the one-day meeting, which was likely to be held near Stockholm.

The ICI is an Iraqi government initiative with the international community aimed at supporting the political process in the war-torn country.

The ICI was launched in Sharm al-Sheikh on May 3, 2007, when more than 60 countries took part in the first meeting which produced commitments of $30 billion dollars.

Bildt emphasized the meeting in Sweden would not be a donors conference.

“This is a political conference,” he said, adding that the aim was to increase international and UN involvement in Iraq’s political development as US involvement decreases.

Among the issues to be addressed would be upcoming local elections and the national reconciliation process.

“We want to support the democratic forces in Iraq,” Bildt said.

Asked whether representation for Iraqi opposition movements would be present at the meeting, he said: “Al-Qaeda will not be invited.”

Ban, who has yet to pay an official visit to Sweden in his capacity as UN secretary general, will stay an extra day in the Scandinavian country for bilateral talks, Bildt said.