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Friday, 30 November, 2001, 14:35 GMT
Pakistan and Iran hail new era
NA fighter
Northern Alliance successes have changed the balance
Iran and Pakistan have hailed a new era in ties and pledged to increase co-operation after the collapse of Taleban rule in most of Afghanistan.

Pakistan and Iran today are rid of the shadow that existed over our relations

Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar
The Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said after talks with his Iranian counterpart Kamal Kharrazi in Islamabad, that the "sun was shining" on ties between the two.

Mr Kharrazi said for his part that they were now entering a new era in relations.

Iran and Pakistan have long viewed one another with suspicion, and vied for influence in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Foreign forces

Mr Kharrazi said that both countries had agreed to set up a joint committee to work with UN and other international bodies on the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

Pakistan and Iranian foreign ministers
Pakistan and Iran: Want broad-based Afghan government
However, the BBC's Zafar Abbas says there were differences over the issue of foreign forces in Afghanistan.

Iran opposes the idea, but the Pakistan foreign minister said that if the Afghan factions agreed on an interim administration, a multi-national force would help to bring stability.

The Iranian foreign minister had earlier on Friday held talks with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

General Musharraf told Mr Kharrazi that Pakistan was "fully prepared to co-operate" with Iran over Afghanistan, according to the Iranian news agency.

Vying for influence

For many years, Pakistan regarded Iran as a revolutionary Shia state with a staunchly anti-American foreign policy.

The Iranians saw Pakistan as a long-standing ally of Washington - and a predominantly Sunni country enjoying close relations with a bigger and wealthier Sunni power, Saudi Arabia.

Successive Pakistani governments saw a weak Afghan state as falling within their sphere of influence.

Their close relationship with the Taleban was designed to tie the two countries even more firmly together.

Iran opposed Pakistani hegemony over Afghanistan and so backed the anti-Taleban forces known as the Northern Alliance.

The BBC's Islamic affairs analyst Roger Hardy says Pakistan's abandonment of the Taleban has changed the whole regional picture.

Having quietly made contact with the Northern Alliance, it is logical for Pakistan to engage in a high-level dialogue with Iran.

The BBC's Zaffar Abbas
"The two foreign ministers did indicate that there were still differences between the two sides"
See also:

07 Nov 01 | South Asia
Iran's refugee tide ebbs
13 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan neighbours look to the future
19 Nov 01 | South Asia
Iran regains role in Afghanistan
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