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    US Accuses Iran of Interfering in Afghanistan

    A senior U.S. official says Iran is interfering in Afghanistan's politics and lending support to the Taliban insurgency. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher spoke to reporters in Paris before a donors conference on Afghanistan. Lisa Bryant has more from the French capital.

    Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher says Iran is known to have funneled weapons to the Taliban on several occasions, and suggests Tehran wants a weak and unstable Afghanistan.

    "They interfere in a variety of ways - perhaps not as violently as they do sometimes in Iraq," said Richard Boucher. "But what we see is Iranian interference politically, Iranian interference in terms of the money they channel into the political process. Iranian interference in terms of playing off local officials against the government - trying to play off the state in that way."

    Boucher spoke during a trip to Paris where he has been holding talks with French officials about the situation in Afghanistan, among other subjects. The French government is hosting a donors' conference in Afghanistan in early June, which Boucher said would be the time to show international support for the Afghan government's efforts to bring peace and stability to the central-Asian nation.

    Washington has been urging European countries to send more troops to Afghanistan and the U.S. diplomat also praised France's pledge last month to send a battalion to the eastern part of the country.

    "I think the French are filling a very important gap," he said. "They are coming down in areas that are difficult, where they are prepared to do what is necessary to help stabilize the country and we are working with them on that."

    Some 1,200 people have died in violence related to the insurgency in Afghanistan this year. Boucher acknowledged security remains a problem in some areas, but said the country had also made strides in development.

    The U.S. government has earmarked $10 billion for reconstruction in Afghanistan, he said, and much of the money has been disbursed.

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