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Karzai, in Tehran, Discusses Ties with Iran

The interim leader of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, is in Iran to discuss relations between the two nations. The major U.S. role in Afghanistan may be an obstacle to stronger ties between Afghanistan and Iran, which President Bush has declared part of an "axis of evil" in the world.

Hamid Karzai has a lot to talk about with Iranian leaders, including ways to improve economic and political ties and the return of Afghan refugees now living in Iran.

But one issue could prove difficult for him in Iran: Afghanistan's relations with the United States. He addressed that issue shortly after his arrival in Tehran on Sunday, with a statement that expressed Afghanistan's gratitude to both countries.

The Afghan leader said he wanted Iran and the United States, despite their differences, to cooperate for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

After meeting with Mr. Karzai, Iran's president, Mohammad Khatami, without mentioning the United States by name, said issues between the two countries would not affect Iran's cooperation with Afghanistan.

On Monday, in a speech to the Iranian Majlis, or parliament, Mr. Karzai stressed the links between Iran and Afghanistan. He told the legislators the Afghan people would never forget Iran's help in the struggle against the Soviet Union and against terrorists. "Today," he said, "we are in a country that behaved like the brother of Afghan people for more than two decades" of war.

After addressing the Majlis, Mr. Karzai spoke to a group of Iranian business leaders, many of whom employ Afghan professionals. He appealed to Afghans who have acquired professional skills to return to their country. An estimated two million Afghan refugees live in Iran, including a number of business executives and teachers, and many building workers.

While seeking Iran's aid, Mr. Karzai is also trying to re-assure them that Afghanistan's ties with other countries will not pose a danger to its neighbors.

In remarks to reporters on Sunday, he acknowledged the U.S. role in helping to get rid of the Taleban, but he added, "Afghanistan cannot be a country through which neighboring countries can be harmed. Our Afghan brothers should be completely sure about that." Mr. Karzai concludes his visit to Iran on Tuesday.