Iran Spokesman Repeats Allegations Against US Hikers
Iran Spokesman Repeats Allegations Against US Hikers

Iran has acknowledged sending money to the Afghan government for years, saying the funds are intended to aid in the war-torn country's reconstruction.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday that Iran is concerned about peace and stability in neighboring Afghanistan, and will continue to provide aid into the future.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Monday that his office received "bags of money" from Iran as a transparent form of aid. Mr. Karzai said the payments were not secret and no different from money received from other "friendly countries" such as the United States.

Mr. Karzai was responding to a New York Times report which alleged that his chief of staff, Umar Daudzai, has been receiving payments from Tehran to "promote Iran's interests" in Afghanistan.

Iranian lawmakers Tuesday called on Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki to appear before parliament to clarify the issue and provide details of the payments, including the amounts and basis on which they were given to Afghanistan.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Monday the United States is skeptical about Iran's motives, taking into consideration what he called its history of playing a destabilizing role in the region.

White House spokesman Bill Burton said the international community has "every reason to be concerned" about Iranian influence in Afghanistan.

The New York Times reported that the Afghan leader and his staff were using foreign cash to secure the loyalty of Afghan lawmakers, tribal leaders and even Taliban commanders.  

The newspaper quoted unnamed sources who said Iran uses its influence to "drive a wedge" between the Afghans and their American and NATO benefactors.

The Iranian embassy in Afghanistan on Monday dismissed the newspaper report as "ridiculous and insulting."

Iran Tuesday reiterated its opposition to the presence of international troops in Afghanistan.

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