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Tuesday, 13 August, 2002, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Iran condemns 'misguided' US
Khatami and Karzai
Mr Khatami (left): Concerned about US presence
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has strongly criticised the US war on terror during a landmark visit to Afghanistan.

We hope to see a change in America's policy for the sake of America and the world

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami
Speaking to journalists in Kabul after talks with President Hamid Karzai, Mr Khatami said the US had created a "war-like" atmosphere throughout the world since 11 September.

"I believe that American leaders have a misunderstanding and an incorrect perception both about their own power and their own interests," he said, before flying home.

He also pledged that Iran would not interfere in Afghanistan's affairs - and said others should not do so either.

Mr Khatami's one-day visit was his first to Afghanistan since US-led forces overthrew the Taleban last year, and signals a much closer relationship between Tehran and the new US-backed Afghan administration.

US criticised

The Iranian president described US policy as wrong, particularly the decision to blame Iran for being a threat.

US soldier at Bagram airbase
The presence of US troops may be a sticking point
And he urged the US to think carefully before intervening in any country's affairs.

Washington has described Iran as a member of the "axis of evil" which threatens international stability.

But Mr Khatami stressed that Iran would never allow its territory to be used by terrorist groups who have been in Afghanistan.

And he warmly praised the US-backed Afghan Government, saying it had the support of all the Afghan people.

His comments came a day after Tehran confirmed it had handed over 16 al-Qaeda suspects to Saudi Arabia, after they had fled to Iran from Afghanistan.

Different views

Mr Khatami flew in to Kabul airport to be greeted by President Karzai.

The two men rode together to the presidential palace in Kabul, flanked by a combination of Iranian security officials and US special forces who protect Mr Karzai.

Among issues likely to have figured prominently during the visit, correspondents say, were the repatriation of at least one and a half million Afghan refugees in Iran, and drug trafficking along the 900-kilometre (560-mile) border.

Ismail Khan, the powerful Afghan commander who controls Herat province, which adjoins Iran, was in Kabul to talk to Mr Khatami.

The BBC's Kylie Morris in Kabul says there must be some relief on the part of Iran to be back on talking terms with its neighbour after the ousting of the Taleban rulers.

The new Afghan rulers are culturally closer to Iran, and were backed by Iran against the Taleban.

But the two states differ dramatically in their relationship with the United States.

Mr Karzai's Afghanistan receives US protection and financial aid and military support.

Iran is concerned about the presence of US forces in Afghanistan, regarding them as a potential threat to its interests.

The BBC's Peter Biles
"Hamid Karzai needs all the friends he can muster to ensure his political survival"


Political uncertainty






See also:

12 Aug 02 | Middle East
11 Aug 02 | South Asia
11 Feb 02 | Middle East
12 Feb 02 | Middle East
14 Jan 02 | Middle East
11 Jan 02 | South Asia
13 Aug 02 | South Asia
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