KABUL, Afghanistan - President Mohammad Khatami, paying the first visit to
Afghanistan by an Iranian head of state in 40 years, accused the United States
on Tuesday of pursuing an "angry approach" to foreign policy since the attacks
of Sept. 11.
Khatami, speaking at a press conference with U.S.-backed Afghan President
Hamid Karzai, promised to help rebuild this country and said the only justification
for any foreign presence in Afghanistan was to bring peace after nearly a generation
"The American administration has a misunderstanding about their own power
and their own interests," Khatami said. "Since Sept. 11, this administration has
taken an angry approach to foreign policy."
Khatami did not offer specific examples, nor did he cite U.S. threats to force
the ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, with whom Iran fought a long war
in the 1980s.
"No doubt attacking one state in the world affects other states," Khatami
said. "Today, we know that aggression brings aggression and to believe that you
can make people submit by force is wrong. We know it actually brings anger and
"Those with power have more responsibility to bring peace in the world," Khatami
added. "No country should use the fight against terrorism to force their views
on other countries."
Karzai, whose government depends heavily on the United States for its very
survival, was careful to avoid taking sides. "We are grateful to Iran for accepting
our refugees and we thank America for their help in fighting the terrorists, for
help in establishing the transitional government," Karzai said.
Khatami was welcomed at Kabul airport by Karzai, who rode with his Iranian
guest to the presidential palace under heavy American and Iranian security. The
two leaders were accompanied by Herat warlord Ismail Khan, whose close ties to
Iran have worried both Karzai and his American backers.
"We are hopeful for a brighter future for Afghanistan," Khatami said in a
speech to the Afghan people shortly after arriving at the palace. "I have warm
gratitude and special respect for you, dear people of Afghanistan."
During his press conference, Khatami said Iran has offered 2,000 university
scholarships to Afghan students and that 6,000 Afghans had expressed an interest
in studying there. Khatami said efforts were under way to boost trade between
the two countries and that Iran hoped to rebuild the rail link between Herat and
the Iranian border.
"The international community should accept responsibility to help the government
to start rebuilding and bring stability to this country," Khatami said.
Last week the Iranian parliament approved $500 million in reconstruction aid
for war-shattered Afghanistan. Iran also recently handed over 16 suspected al-Qaida
fighters to Saudi Arabia at that country's request.
Khatami's entourage also included Iranian police officials who planned discussions
on how to stem opium production and trafficking in Afghanistan.
By the late 1990s, Afghanistan had become by far the world's largest producer
of opium, the raw material of heroin. In 2000, the Taliban government imposed
an effective ban on opium production but the U.S.-led overthrow of the former
government has spurred the planting and harvesting of opium poppies again in the
The Iranian news agency said the visit was the first to Afghanistan by an
Iranian head of state since 1962, when Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi visited Kabul
in a failed attempt to mediate a dispute between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The high-level visit and the promise of aid underscore Iran's interest in
reaching out to neighboring Afghanistan, which shares close ties of language,
Islamic faith and culture, at a time when this country's government is heavily
dependent on the United States.
Iran was not on good terms with the Taliban when they ruled Afghanistan and
sheltered hundreds of thousands of refugees. The Iranians publicly endorsed the
U.S.-led fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida and cooperated with the United
States in trying to limit the spread of narcotics from Afghanistan.
Still, Iran remains one of the countries President Bush has identified as
belonging to the "axis of evil" that threatens global stability. Earlier this
year, the United States criticized alleged Iranian interference in Afghan affairs
and accused Tehran of trying to undermine the Karzai government.
"We have no intention of interfering in this country," Khatami said. "No country
should interfere in this country because the people of Afghanistan would never
U.S. intelligence officials have also complained that Iran has allowed some
senior al-Qaida officials shelter or safe passage. Iranian officials have expressed
concerns about the United States having too much influence over the new government
Nevertheless, Iranian and American security agents rode together in the convoy
that accompanied Khatami from the airport to the palace. Armed Americans stood
watch on rooftops overlooking the route.
Copyright 2002 The Associated Press