Thursday, March 11, 2010

US calls on Iran to play 'constructive role' in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — The United States on Wednesday called on Iran to play a "constructive role" in Afghanistan, as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Kabul for talks with his Afghan counterpart.

"The future of Afghanistan has a regional dimension and we hope that Iran will play a more constructive role in Afghanistan in the future," said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley.

The United States and Iran have "cooperated constructively" in the past on Afghanistan, he said, but added that US-Iranian relations had rarely led to similar cooperation since then.

"We have issues with respect to Iran, not only within Afghanistan but more broadly in the region," he said.

"They have declined to engage seriously in response to the president's offer of engagement out of mutual interest and mutual respect."

Crowley said the United States understands that Iran has "a legitimate interest in the future of Afghanistan," adding: "We understand fully that the leaders of neighboring countries need to have dialogue."

The US comments came as Ahmadinejad visited Afghanistan and criticized the presence of NATO forces in the country.

The outspoken Iranian leader also mocked US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who was visiting Kabul at the same time.

"You are 12,000 kilometers (7,400 miles) away on the other side of the world," Ahmadinejad said. "What are you doing here? This is a serious question."

Gates, who was visiting Kabul before heading to Saudi Arabia, has accused of Iran of providing low-level support to militants in Afghanistan.

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