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Bush: Iran Must Not Destabilize Afghan Government - 2002-01-10

President Bush says Iran must not destabilize the new interim government in Afghanistan. The president's comment follows a U.S. newspaper report that says Iran is trying to limit the pro-Western tilt of the interim government and harboring some Afghan terrorists.

President Bush cautioned Iran that the United States will not allow any nation to slow its pursuit of terrorists. "Our nation, in our fight against terror, will uphold the doctrine that either you are with us or against us," he said. "And any nation that thwarts our ability to rout terror out where it is exists will be held to account one way or the other."

The President said he had "positive signals" from Iran early on in the conflict and hopes the Afghan neighbor will contribute to regional stability. But he made clear he will accept no Iranian interference in the new Afghan interim administration. "If they in any way shape or form try to destabilize the government, the coalition will deal with them, you know, in diplomatic ways, initially, and we would like very much for them to be active participants in a stable Afghanistan," said President Bush.

Mr. Bush spoke after a New York Times report said Iran is sheltering some al-Qaida fighters and has agents in Afghanistan trying to undermine U.S. influence so the country remains an Islamic state and does not become a more secular nation like Turkey.

President Bush says Iran must be a contributor in the war against terror by handing over any terrorists who cross the border from Afghanistan. "We had some positive signals early in his war from the Iranians," he said. "We would hope that they would continue to be a positive force in helping us bring people to justice. We would hope, for example, they wouldn't allow al-Qaida murderers to hide in their country. We would hope that if that be the case, if someone tries to flee into Iran, that they would hand them over to us. If they are a part of the coalition, then they need to be an active part of the coalition."

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman says no terrorists have crossed the border from Afghanistan. He said under no circumstances would the Islamic Republic allow al-Qaida members or supporters of terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden to enter Iran.