Berlin: Conflicts in Syria and Mali, as well as Iran's nuclear programme, are expected to take center stage as top global diplomats and defence officials gather on Friday in Munich for an annual security conference.
    
US Vice President Joe Biden joins a dozen heads of state and government and 70 foreign and defence ministers for the Munich Security Conference opening today. Biden stopped on Friday morning in the German capital of Berlin for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel before traveling on to Munich.
    
The conference, in its 49th year, is renowned as a setting where senior officials are able to address policy issues in an informal setting.
    
Others expected include Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi; the foreign minister and defence minister of France, which has combat troops in Mali aiding the military there in battling Islamic extremists; and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia, which has supported the Syrian regime despite pressure to break with President Bashar Assad.
    
President Barack Obama wants to make Asia the focus of US foreign policy in his second administration, reflecting the region's growing economic power and the rise of China.
    
But the Munich conference is expected to be dominated by the crises in the Middle East and North Africa and concerns in Europe about Washington's ability to stave off a financial crisis at home.
    
Acknowledging those issues, Biden urged the Iranians in an interview published today by Munich's Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper to resume international talks on their controversial nuclear programme.

(Agencies)

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