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Afghanistan/Iran: Presidents Tout Strong Historical Ties

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, accompanied by senior members of his government, met senior Iranian officials in Tehran today. Afghanistan has good ties with Iran, which took in around 2 million Afghan refugees during Afghanistan's 25 years of war. Kabul says it wants to deepen this relationship.

PRAGUE, May 28, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- After meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, on May 27, President Karzai thanked Iran for the support in the past difficult years and especially for accepting Afghan refugees.

"We will never forget Iran's goodwill in accepting our refugees in the past 20 years and Iran's cooperation with Afghanistan in the past four years," Karzai said. "Afghanistan hopes to strengthen further trade and economic ties between the two countries."

Karzai said that Iranian exports to Afghanistan have risen from several million dollars four years ago to $500 million now.

Ahmadinejad also said the two countries have good potential to deepen their cooperation.

"As he [Karzai] said, [Afghanistan and Iran] both are big countries, and there are a lot of opportunities for cooperation in all fields - industry, agriculture and culture, transport, science, new technologies, education and culture, and any other field that the two countries choose to," Ahmadinejad said. "It is a good opportunity for mutual cooperation between the two countries."

Paying Tribute To Khomeini

Karzai visited the tomb of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in Tehran today. Karzai said that Khomeini was a good friend of Afghan people during their fight against the Soviet invasion.

"During the very difficult times for the Afghan people he was a friend and supporter of the Afghan people. He was participant of the Afghan jihad; he helped the Afghan people, accepted Afghan refugees, and he prayed for the people of Afghanistan. We will not forget that. His memory will be alive eternally in the minds of Afghan people."

However, there seems to be little Karzai can do about the Iranian standoff with the West on Tehran's nuclear program. As Karzai arrived, Iran angrily dismissed suggestions that Afghanistan, which has close ties with the United States, might play a mediating role.

Afghanistan has a close relationship with the United States. There are about 22,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, helping to fight a mounting insurgency there.

Copyright (c) 2006. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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