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Monday, 11 March, 2002, 12:35 GMT
Afghan warlord 'pledges support'
Kabul street
Kabul suffered when rival warlords fought for power
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By Haroon Rashid
BBC correspondent in Peshawar
The party of former Afghan prime minister and mujahedin commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has given its full backing to the new interim government in Kabul.

The Hezb-i-Islami party courted controversy recently because of reported statements by Mr Hekmatyar against the US and the new Afghan administration.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar went into exile in Iran five years ago
But in a major shift, the party's deputy leader, Qutbuddin Hilal, told a news conference in the Pakistani city of Peshawar that the statements were wrongly attributed to Mr Hekmatyar.

Instead, he said his party offered full co-operation and support to the interim government in order to bring lasting peace to Afghanistan.

He said Mr Hekmatyar himself was probably now in Afghanistan after his Iranian hosts asked him to leave.

Strained relations

Mr Hilal said he wanted to show to the world by leaving Iran that he was not the reason for strains in relations between Iran and the US.

He said he could not give the exact location of Mr Hekmatyar in Afghanistan since they had lost contact with him after his phone lines were disconnected by the Iranian Government.

He said the reason for their certainty that Mr Hekmatyar was in Afghanistan was his determination to go to his country.

Mr Hekmatyar was asked to leave Iran on the eve of interim leader Hamid Karzai's visit to Tehran.

'War crimes'

Mr Hilal also said they were not afraid of any court action against Mr Hekmatyar since he was never involved in war crimes.

Some ministers in the interim government belonging to the rival Northern Alliance faction say Mr Hekmatyar should be held and tried for war crimes if he enters the country.

Mr Hekmatyar's forces were one of several groups battling for control of Kabul in the 1990s, inflicting great damage on the city.

In another major u-turn, the Hezb-i-Islami also said it supported the return of former king Zaher Shah if it helped in bringing lasting peace.

Earlier, the party was opposed to any role for the former king.

See also:

26 Feb 02 | Middle East
Iran 'expels' Afghan warlord
25 Feb 02 | Middle East
Afghan leader thanks Iran
13 Feb 02 | Middle East
Iran to hand over foreign prisoners
12 Feb 02 | Middle East
US warns Iran over al-Qaeda help
14 Jan 02 | Middle East
Iran pledges Afghan support
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