Iran dismisses charges it is arming Taliban

TEHRAN Thu Jun 21, 2007 3:58pm BST

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TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran on Thursday rejected U.S. accusations it is arming the Taliban in Afghanistan, saying an attack on its consulate there showed the hostility of the Sunni militant group towards Shi'ite Iran.

U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns on June 9 accused Tehran of supporting the Taliban and fuelling insurrection around the Middle East.

"These accusations are baseless and illogical," Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Mahdi Safari was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

"Iran's role in reconstructing Afghanistan has always been confirmed by friends and enemies alike," he said.

Safari noted an attack earlier this month on an Iranian consulate in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar and said this showed the Taliban's enmity towards the Islamic Republic, IRNA said.

Iran supported Afghan groups fighting the Taliban, including the Northern Alliance which played a crucial role in toppling the Sunni group after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

Violence has surged in Afghanistan after a traditional winter lull, with foreign forces launching attacks against Taliban strongholds in the south and east and the guerrillas hitting back with roadside and suicide bombings.

Earlier in June, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said he could not link Tehran to a flow of weapons into Afghanistan and Afghan President Hamid Karzai hailed relations with neighbouring Iran as especially good.

Washington is leading international efforts to isolate Iran over its disputed nuclear programme and accuses it of fomenting instability in Iraq.

The West says Iran is trying covertly to develop nuclear weapons, while Iran says its nuclear programme is for electricity generation.

The United Nations has imposed two rounds of sanctions on Iran for not stopping uranium enrichment and Western powers have warned of a third resolution if it does not halt such atom work.

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