ROME, Feb 10: Italy, which heads the Group of Eight, will host a conference in June on securing the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight the ‘spillover’ of terrorism, drugs and organised crime, a senior Italian diplomat said on Tuesday.

As well as its G8 partners, Italy plans to invite regional powers that can play a useful role in tackling problems which cross over into Iran and also into Russia’s sphere of influence.

But it is not yet clear whether Iran itself will be invited.

The talks will be held in Trieste on June 27, a day after G8 foreign ministers from the United States, Russia, Britain, Italy, Germany, France, Canada and Japan meet there. Italy will invite countries with regional influence, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, said the diplomat.

Sandro de Bernardin, political director of Italy’s foreign ministry, said the “Afghanistan-Pakistan axis” was crucial in tackling terrorism.

“When it comes to phenomena like drug trafficking and organised crime, the problem is not just limited to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border but it involves also other countries around Afghanistan,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

The Italian official said Russia was worried about “organised crime, drug trafficking and terrorism spilling over from the Afghanistan border and passing through Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan”.

Regarding Iran’s participation, the Italian diplomat said this was still a “work in progress”.

Italy was discussing Iran’s presence with its G8 partners, he said. The West was now undergoing a “phase of changes” in its relationship with Tehran.—Reuters

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