No evidence Iran arming Taliban: Afghan foreign minister

Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta said Friday there was no evidence that Iran was supplying weapons to Taliban militants waging a violent insurgency.

Spanta’s comments came after the top US commander in Afghanistan, General Dan McNeill, said Thursday a convoy of explosives intercepted last month had arrived from Iran and probably with the knowledge of the Iranian military.

“Our government has no evidence to show Iran is giving weapons to the Taliban and we have never stated this,” Spanta told reporters after meeting with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki in the western city of Herat.

US and British officials have alleged for months that weapons from Iran are going to the Taliban rebels fighting Kabul and its international allies, the main one being Washington with which Tehran has a strained relationship.

Iran has denied the allegations and Afghanistan has also said it has no proof.

Asked about McNeill’s statement, Mottaki said: “These are claims that they make. For us the motives behind these claims are clear.”

He did not elaborate but suggested there were contacts, which he did not make clear, between “terrorist groups in Afghanistan” and “political circles and European capitals.”

Iran was fully behind the reconstruction of post-Taliban Afghanistan, both ministers said.

McNeill, the head of the 40,000-strong NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, was referring Thursday to a convoy from Iran which was stopped on September 5 in western Afghanistan.

It contained “a number of advanced technology improvised explosive devices,” he said.

“It is difficult for me to conceive that this convoy could have originated in Iran and come to Afghanistan without at least the knowledge of the Iran military,” he said.

The Afghan and Iranian ministers met with their Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Kasuri in Herat ahead of a conference Saturday of foreign ministers from 10 regional countries in the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO).

ECO incorporates Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.