Sunday, December 8, 2013

Karzai in Iran amid security deal row with US
At the head of a high-level delegation, President Hamid Karzai on Sunday landed in Tehran for a one-day state visit to hold talks with Iranian leadership on issues of mutual interest amid a row with the US over a security accord. Iran’s official news agency, IRNA reported the visiting Afghan president was warmly welcomed by Vice President Mohammad Shariatmadari upon arrival at Mehrabad airport. During his one-day stay, the Afghan president is to hold talks with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani and a number of senior Iranian officials on issues of mutual interest.
Karzai will meet Rouhani for the second time in four months in Tehran, and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. The Presidential Palace in Kabul issued a statement saying the president left Kabul for Tehran for a one-day visit to discuss with his Iranian counterpart measures pertaining to bilateral relations in various fields. The statement, received by Pajhwok Afghan News, said the Iranian president had invited President Karzai to visit Tehran when he last travelled to the neighbouring country four months ago.
Tehran strongly backs Karzai's stance in refusing to sign the security deal with the US, allowing NATO troops to operate in Afghanistan after 2014. IRNA reported the deal will be discussed during the talks. Karzai’s visit to Iran is taking place a day after US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Kabul for an unannounced visit and held talks with his Afghan counterpart Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, Chief of Army Staff Sher Mohammad Karimi and deputy interior minister.
After the meeting, Hagel said he received assurances from Mohammadi that the deal would be signed soon. Hagel did not meet Karzai, saying that Kabul was already aware of the US position. Washington and its allies have appealed to Karzai to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA). Iran's position on the BSA is that it would not serve the interests of its eastern neighbour. "Iran does not see the signing and ratifying of this security pact to be beneficial for the long-term interests of the people and government of Afghanistan," foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said Tuesday.

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