WASHINGTON (AFP) - Afghanistan's foreign minister voiced hope Friday that US President Barack Obama would improve relations with Iran, saying Tehran could help bring stability to the war-torn nation. "I hope that with the new administration comes some changes in the bilateral relations between Iran and Washington," Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta told reporters in the US capital. "Iran is an important regional player and to engage the neighbouring countries of Afghanistan... is in the vital interest of Afghanistan," he said. Italy, the current head of the Group of Eight club of rich nations, has asked the US to allow Iran to take part in a June meeting on stabilising Afghanistan. Spanta praised Iran's role in Afghanistan, estimating that Tehran had contributed more than 300 million dollars in development aid since the 2001 US-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime. Meanwhile, Afghanistan's Interior Minister said Friday 10,000 to 15,000 Taliban were fighting in the nation, offering a rare estimate on the insurgency, which the new US administration has vowed to tackle. Minister Hanif Atmar dismissed the strength of the insurgents, saying that a wave of high-profile attacks showed the desperation of the Taliban movement, which was ousted from power in a US-led offensive in 2001. "In terms of numbers, there could be between 10 and 15,000 Taliban insurgents," he told reporters. Afghan authorities rarely give hard figures for the number of Taliban, saying that it is hard to define the movement. Atmar said most of the insurgents were foreigners operating with Al-Qaeda or Central Asian extremist groups. He said many Afghans were recruited for economic reasons and that he did not consider them dye-in-the-wool Taliban. The Taliban on February 11 carried out simultaneous attacks on three government offices in Kabul that left 26 people dead as well as eight of the attackers. "These terrorist attacks do not represent their strength but indeed their weakness," Atmar said. "The fact that they don't care about their image is a significant indication of their hopelessness," he said. "They are still capable of threatening the lives of the Afghan people but that does not mean that they can derail the (reconstruction) process or challenge the government of Afghanistan," he said. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan has doubled the number of its troops serving with NATO-led forces in Afghanistan to 90, the defence ministry said Friday. "Based on parliament's decision to increase Azerbaijan's peacekeeping contingent in Afghanistan, 45 servicemen have been sent to the country," adding to the 45 already there, defence ministry spokesman Eldar Sabiroglu told AFP. Azerbaijan's parliament voted for the increase in October. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), comprising more than 51,000 troops from some 40 nations, is helping to fight a Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan. Azerbaijani soldiers have been deployed mainly in western Afghanistan, where they provide security for reconstruction efforts under Turkish command. Energy-rich Azerbaijan, a predominantly Muslim country wedged between Russia and Iran, has contributed small numbers of forces to Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo as President Ilham Aliyev seeks closer ties with the West. It withdrew a 151-strong contingent from Iraq last year.