AP: Iran’s president said Tuesday he has “serious doubts” that his country is supplying weapons to Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, refuting allegations by some Western officials that Iran is arming the militants. Associated Press
By FISNIK ABRASHI
Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – Iran’s president said Tuesday he has “serious doubts” that his country is supplying weapons to Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, refuting allegations by some Western officials that Iran is arming the militants.
Speaking during his first-ever visit to Afghanistan, President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad called Iran’s eastern neighbor a “brotherly nation” whose stability is paramount for the region.
When asked if Iran is supplying weapons to the Taliban by a reporter from Voice of America, a U.S.-funded outlet, Ahmedinejad laughed and said the United States doesn’t want Afghanistan and Iran to be friends.
“The same allegation are made in Iraq. They are saying that they discover some weapons,” Ahmedinejad said at a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. “What is the reason why they are saying such things? Iran is a big country. I have serious doubts about this issue.”
In response to Ahmedinejad’s meeting with Karzai, White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said it was important for Afghanistan and Iraq to have good relations with their neighbors.
The trip comes a week after President Bush said during a news conference with Karzai last week in the United States that he thought Iran was playing a destabilizing role in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have stepped up attacks the last two years.
Perino said Bush stands behind the statements made by Defense Secretary Robert Gates alleging that the Iranians are providing weapons to the Taliban.
“If the president of Iran believes that is not the case, well then, I don’t know how to reconcile those two things,” she said. “We put our trust in our intelligence and what we’re hearing from our security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
The U.S. military has also charged that Iran is supplying weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq who are fighting against U.S. troops there.
Some Western and Persian Gulf governments have also alleged that the Islamic government in Tehran is secretly bolstering Taliban fighters. Among U.S. officials a prevalent view is that Iran, while not an ally of the Taliban, is seizing any opportunity in both Iraq and Afghanistan to complicate U.S. stabilization efforts.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote in a May edition of the Economist magazine that it is “clear” the Taliban is receiving arms from “elements of the Iranian regime.” The top NATO commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Gen. Dan McNeill, told The Associated Press in June that “I don’t doubt that somewhere the Iranians may have helped the Taliban.”
Officials from NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan have said they have no proof that top Iranian leaders have engineered or approved of weapons being supplied to the Taliban.
Iran calls the accusation part of a broad anti-Iranian campaign and says it makes no sense that a Shiite-led government like itself would help the fundamentalist Sunni movement of the Taliban.
Karzai praised Iran’s role in Afghanistan, while the two leaders presided over the signing of a number of bilateral agreements in a number of fields, including security, counter-narcotics and agriculture.
Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report from Crawford, Texas.