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Tuesday, August 18, 1998 Published at 22:24 GMT 23:24 UK

World: Middle East

Khamenei demands return of diplomats

Ayatollah Khamenei: "Acts of banditry" not tolerated

The supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, has demanded the return of a group of Iranian diplomats he claims is being held by the Taleban Movement in Afghanistan.

Mr Khamenei said Iran, and the Iranian army, would not tolerate what he called "acts of banditry" against their people.

The Taleban say they have not seen the 11 diplomats, who were based in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif until it fell to Taleban forces this month.

Mr Khameini made what correspondents describe as his outspoken address as the Iranian parliament met in private for a special session on Afghanistan.

Truck drivers held in jail

Meanwhile, Iranian television has reported that an official has met the Iranian truck drivers whom the Taleban are holding prisoner. The official - an Iranian based in Afghanistan - apparently saw the 30 drivers in jail in Kandahar.

The missing diplomats were not among the group.

The Taleban say the truck drivers were delivering weapons to opposition forces in Mazar-e Sharif before it fell.

The Iranians claim they were distributing humanitarian aid.

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