Iranian president holds talks in Afghanistan


Kabul : Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad paid a one-day visit to the Afghan capital Tuesday for talks on bilateral and regional issues with President Hamid Karzai.

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During the first leg of a three-country tour, Ahmadinejad wanted to broaden existing ties between the neighbours, officials in Kabul and Tehran said.

However, observers believe that the main purpose of his visit was to neutralize US and British accusations that Iran is supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

This includes alleged supplies of weapons to the insurgents, a charge that is hotly denied by Tehran, which rejects the claims as propaganda efforts to justify the “illegitimate presence” of Western countries in Afghanistan.

Reconstruction work was also expected to feature in his talks with Karzai, since Iran is a major donor of aid to Afghanistan.

Other key issues included the presence of almost a million Afghan refugees in Iran and the expulsion by Tehran of illegal Afghan immigrants and other groups.

This is Ahmadinejad’s first visit to Afghanistan since he was elected in 2005.

He was scheduled to continue his tour with a stop in oil and gas-rich Turkmenistan before travelling to Kyrgyzstan for a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

The president is expected to request that Iran’s status in the organization is raised from observer to full member, and hold talks with leaders of full members of the six-country organisation, who include Russia and China.