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Wednesday, 11 September, 2002, 22:38 GMT 23:38 UK
Iran vows to honour Iraq border
Iranian soldiers on parade in the Zabol region
Tehran has ruled out military ''adventures'' into Iraq
Iran has pledged that it will not violate the Iraqi border if the United States launches an attack on Baghdad.

Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani made the promise while calling on all countries in the region not to join in a US-led invasion.

Mr Shamkhani said: ''Even if Iraqi sovereignty was weakened, the Iraqi border with Iran will never change. We are against a US attack on Iraq, but if it happens, we will not engage in adventures.''

US President George W Bush is expected to set out a tough stance on Iraq when he addresses the UN General Assembly on Thursday.

Both Iran and Iraq are part of what Mr Bush calls an ''axis of evil''.

Refugee fears

Mr Shamkhani also accused the United States of making contact with people he referred to as bandits, in order to cause disorder on Iran's eastern border with Afghanistan.

Ali Shamkhani
Ali Shamkhani: The US is consorting with ''bandits''

Iranian officials often use the term bandit to describe drug smugglers who operate along its borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Mr Shamkhani said: ''How can you call others terrorists while you negotiate with the lowlifes and bandits whose hands are stained with blood of innocent people.''

Iran also fears that a US attack on Baghdad could spark a repeat of the influx of Iraqi Kurds and Shiite refugees into Iran that occurred during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war that ended in 1988.

Iran was also the destination of more than a million Iraqi Kurd and Shia refugees during the Gulf War of 1991.

Afghan refugees at an Iranian border camp
Tehran fears a US strike could force 500,000 refugees across its border

Iran warned on Tuesday that more than 500,000 Iraqi refugees could flee towards its borders if the US attacked President Saddam Hussein's regime.

A senior Iranian official responsible for refugees, Ahmad Hussaini, said the country's interior ministry had set up a national crisis centre to cope with a possible influx.

He said that no Iraqis would be allowed to enter Iranian territory and that camps would be set up inside Iraqi territory on the border area.

The US and Iran are vying for support in the western Afghan city of Herat, which has traditionally fallen under Tehran's sphere of influence, but where many US troops are now posted.


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10 Sep 02 | Middle East
05 Sep 02 | September 11 one year on
10 Sep 02 | Middle East
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06 Sep 02 | Middle East
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11 Sep 02 | Politics
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