Rice plans to attend October Iraq meeting in Turkey

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WASHINGTON, Sep 11 (Reuters) US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans to attend a late October conference of Iraq's neighbors in Istanbul to discuss ways of stabilizing the country, the U.S. State Department said today.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters the meeting's aim was to ''help with the strategic stability of Iraq'' and said it might allow Rice to meet Iranian or Syrian foreign ministers, although nothing was now scheduled.

The United States accuses Iran of funneling weapons into Iraq that have been used to attack some of the 168,000 US troops trying to restore stability more than four years after US-led forces toppled former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

It also accuses Syria of allowing arms and foreign fighters to cross its border into Iraq, where hundreds of people die each week in sectarian and other violence that erupted after the US-led invasion.

Iran and Syria deny fomenting the violence in Iraq.

McCormack said the five permanent UN Security Council members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- were expected to attend as were the Group of Eight nations, which would add Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan.

He declined to provide the dates for the meeting, saying these would be announced by the Turkish government, but said that it was expected to take place in late October.

The same group of countries gathered in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, in May at a meeting that did not produce much tangible progress on supporting Iraq.

At that meeting, Rice had a brief encounter with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki over lunch but held more substantial talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem on the sidelines of the conference.

Reuters RAR DB2147

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