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Thursday, 12 April, 2001, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Iran favours strong regional ties
Atal Behari Vajpayee (second left) with Ali Khamanei
Historic meeting: Mr Vajpayee (second left) with Ali Khamanei
Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei has called for close regional cooperation to combat what he says is growing American influence in the area.


Nobody can accept the interference of a country like America in all world issues

Ayatollah Ali Khamanei
The Ayatollah told the visiting Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, that Iran, India, China and Russia needed to strengthen their ties.

The Iranian leader said an "expansion of ties among eastern countries in the current global and regional situation was necessary".

Elsewhere, the Taleban authorities in Afghanistan strongly criticised Mr Vajpayee for suggesting during a speech to the Iranian parliament that they pose a threat to regional stability.

Economic ties

Ayatollah Khamanei said the importance of fostering close relations among eastern countries was necessary to oppose "colonialist countries".

"Nobody can accept the interference of a country like America in all world issues," he told the Indian premier.

He also said a proposed gas pipeline from Iran to India would be one of several "beneficial and effective" projects that would strengthen economic ties.

Both countries are exploring the possibility of such a pipeline, either over land or under the sea.

But no immediate progress is expected. India has long-standing objections to a land route as it will pass through Pakistan, with which it has fought three wars.

Kashmir

But the Ayatollah appeared to disagree with his guest over the conflict surrounding the disputed region of Kashmir.

Patrolling in Kashmir
Iran wants the rights of all Kashmir residents protected
He urged India to seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict with its neighbour Pakistan.

"We hope a solution can be reached which will guarantee the rights of Kashmiri residents and provide them with peace and tranquility," he said.

India accuses Pakistan of fomenting unrest in the troubled state and has ruled out tripartite peace talks between Islamabad, Delhi and the Kashmiri separatists.

Taleban

The situation in neigbhouring Afghanistan has also been the focus of discussions between officials of India and Iran.

On Wednesday, Mr Vajpayee described the Taleban as a regional threat and condemned their recent destruction of two giant Buddha statues.

In response, the Taleban said Mr Vajpayee's comments were an attempt to divert attention from what they described as India's own 'conspiracies' aimed at destabilising the region.

The Taleban accuses India, Iran and Russia of backing opposition forces in Afghanistan.

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See also:

11 Apr 01 | South Asia
India says Taleban a threat
10 Apr 01 | South Asia
Indian PM in key Iran visit
12 Mar 01 | South Asia
Outcry as Buddhas are destroyed
23 May 00 | South Asia
India and Iran seek closer ties
20 Dec 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Iran
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