Iran opposes foreign troops in Afghanistan after 2014

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Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi Monday underlined Tehran's objections to international forces retaining a presence in neighbouring Afghanistan after NATO combat troops pull out in 2014.

Speaking at a conference here on the future of the war-ravaged country after the withdrawal, Salehi said Iran suspected a bid by NATO member countries to maintain a regional foothold.

"Certain Western countries are attempting to enlarge their influence in Afghanistan after 2014 with their military presence, which contradicts their efforts to support peace and security," he said.

"We think that any regional or international initiative to re-establish peace in Afghanistan can only succeed if the possibility of maintaining foreign troops there is rejected."

Salehi said Iran would "continue to contribute to Afghanistan's reconstruction and extends the offer of cooperation to other countries for this aim".

But he said the international troops' presence over the last decade had done nothing to "diminish the development of terrorism" or establish peace in Afghanistan.

There are around 140,000 international troops in Afghanistan and all NATO-led combat forces are due to leave by the end of 2014, when Kabul will assume responsibility for the country's security.

However some member countries including the United States have indicated they intend to maintain a supportive military presence as Afghanistan tries to steer a course toward stability.

Key details are expected to be hammered out at a NATO summit in May.

Salehi's remarks come amid heightened tensions with the West over Tehran's disputed nuclear programme, the storming of Britain's embassy in Tehran last week and Iran's claim it shot down a US Army drone on the Afghan-Pakistani border Sunday.

The NATO-led military force in Afghanistan said the drone "may" belong to the United States.

© 2011 AFP

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