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Sunday, 10 February, 2002, 10:56 GMT
Iran acts against Kabul opponent
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar
Hekmatyar has remained fiercely anti-American
Iran says it is shutting down the operations of a hardline Afghan faction leader who has vowed to fight the Americans and oppose the interim government in Kabul.

All the offices in Iran of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e-Islami faction have been closed down.

Iranian officials say they are considering expelling him from the country.
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami
Iran says it supports the Kabul administration

The BBC's Jim Muir in Tehran says the action is being seen as a gesture of support for the interim government in Kabul and possibly a conciliatory move towards the Americans.

The past month has seen a war of words between the US and Iran.

President George Bush has described Iran as part of an "axis of evil" and accused it of trying to destabilise the newly-established Afghan administration.

Consultations with Kabul

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has been resident in Tehran for several years.

His Hezb-e-Islami had a number of offices around the country, especially in towns and cities near the Afghan border.

Now officials at his house have confirmed that all his offices have been closed down by order of the Iranian Government.

Mr Hekmatyar himself is said to be still in the country, but the Iranian Interior Minister Abdolvahed Mussavi-Lari has said his expulsion is being considered in discussion with the interim authority in Kabul.

Afghan sources in the capital told the French news agency AFP that Mr Hekmatyar was currently allowed to remain and receive visits, but was banned from engaging in political activities against the Kabul administration.

Last week the Iranian Intelligence Minister Ali Yunessi accused Mr Hekmatyar of abusing Iranian hospitality and breaching undertakings given to the government.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar
Hekmatyar: Accused of abusing Iranian hospitality
Iran's policy, he said, was to support the Kabul administration; it was opposed to any activity that might weaken it.

There have been reports that members of the Hezb-e-Islami have been coming and going between Iran and western Afghanistan, movements which are now expected to stop.

Although the faction was expelled from Kabul when the Taleban took over in the 1990s, Mr Hekmatyar remained fiercely anti-American and vowed to fight any western intervention in Afghanistan.

After the US-led attack began he said he was talking to the Taleban and other groups to try to set up a united front and he has denounced the interim government in Kabul as illegitimate.

Iran has declared support for the interim Afghan administration and is host to some 1.5 million Afghan refugees.

But there have been US allegations that Iran - concerned about a new US-backed government in a neighbouring country - is sending arms into western Afghanistan and has allowed Taleban and al-Qaeda members to escape across the Iran-Afghan border.

The BBC's Jim Muir
"Hekmatyar was always an unlikely bed-fellow for the Iranians"
See also:

10 Feb 02 | South Asia
Afghan arrests over dead journalists
10 Feb 02 | Middle East
Khatami urges mass anti-US protests
26 Jan 02 | Middle East
Iran backs Afghan peace
10 Feb 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
Iran's influence shows in Herat
26 Oct 01 | South Asia
Exiled warlord 'in talks with Taleban'
19 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan powerbrokers: Who's who
07 Feb 02 | Middle East
Iran warns US against attack
06 Feb 02 | Americas
Analysis: The 'axis of evil' debate
10 Feb 02 | Middle East
Iran's unlikely bedfellow
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