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Tuesday, 12 February, 2002, 19:45 GMT
US warns Iran over al-Qaeda help
US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad
Mr Khalilzad said information had been passed to Iran
By the BBC's Pam O'Toole

President George W Bush's special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, says Washington has given Iran's foreign ministry details of alleged Iranian interference in Afghanistan and help given to al-Qaeda fugitives.

Mr Khalilzad said Washington had passed the information directly to Iranian diplomats during multilateral talks on Afghanistan.

President Khatami
The US is concerned President Khatami is loosing ground
Speaking in a BBC interview, he repeated allegations that elements within Iran were helping to arm and finance groups within Afghanistan in a bid to establish pockets of influence and discourage co-operation with the interim government.

But he also gave more specific details than before, singling out hardline elements around Iran's spiritual leader and the Revolutionary Guards as being behind such policies.

Conflicting policies

Mr Khalilzad said Washington was concerned that Iran had two policies on Afghanistan.

One was constructive, as demonstrated by the statements of the country's reformist president and the work done by Iranian diplomats.

But, he said, hardliners around Iran's supreme leader and its Revolutionary Guards appeared to be pursuing a more negative policy.

Taleban prisoner
The US alleges Iran helped Taleban members escape

He gave more specific details than before, saying members of the Al Quds division of Iran's Revolutionary Guards had been despatched to Afghanistan along with a group known as Mohamed's Soldiers - a group of Afghan Shiites trained in Lebanon.

Mr Khalilzad added that he believed that some elements of the Revolutionary Guards had had a relatively longstanding relationship with al-Qaeda and had helped member of the group escape from Afghanistan to Iran.

Some al-Qaeda members, he alleged, had even been allowed to travel on to other destinations. He added that Washington was fairly confident that Taleban officials had also received assistance to cross into Iran.

No plan to attack

Mr Khalilzad would not specify where this information came from, but he said it had been passed on.

"We have given them [the Iranians] the information we have with regard to what we think is happening, particularly with regard to al-Qaeda presence in Iran and movement across Iran," he said.

Mr Khalilzad emphasised that Washington had no plans to attack Iran - it simply wanted to bring these charges to the attention of Iranian officials in the hope that it would give them the evidence they needed to confront or influence those pursuing such policies.

He said that with the hardliners apparently in the ascendant in the ongoing power struggle in Iran, the US was concerned that the freedoms which the Iranian people voted for in their last general election had not materialised.

See also:

14 Jan 02 | Middle East
Iran pledges Afghan support
11 Jan 02 | Middle East
Iran hits back at Bush
10 Jan 02 | Americas
Bush warns Iran on terror
11 Jan 02 | South Asia
Iran defends role in Afghanistan
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