Iran Seals Afghan Border in Anticipation of US Retaliatory Strikes
Iran is sealing off the border with Afghanistan to prevent an influx of refugees if the United States makes a retaliatory strike on the country, the official IRNA news agency said Saturday.
It cited an interior ministry statement saying that army and police forces have been deployed to close Iran's eastern border with Afghanistan, where the ruling Taliban are believed to be harboring terror suspect Osama bin Laden.
"Military and police forces have been deployed along the eastern border to prevent the influx of would-be Afghan refugees into Iran in the aftermath of probable US attacks," the ministry said, according to IRNA.
Iran has already been at work in recent years to close the 900-kilometer (400-mile) border with Afghanistan in a bid to stem the crush of Afghan refugees as well as a growing trade in drugs smuggling.
Iran, home to more than one million Afghan refugees, does not recognize Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia, which ousted President Burhanuddin Rabbani in 1996.
The Saudi-born bin Laden has been named as Washington's "prime suspect" in the September 11 terror attacks on the symbols of US economic and military might in New York and Washington.
The Tehran ambassador of the ousted government told AFP earlier that any US retaliation strikes on Afghanistan should spare innocent civilians.
"I hope that my country is not the target of an American attack," Mohammad Kheirkhah said. "But if, in the context of the anti-terrorist battle, the Americans want to do something, let them act only against terrorists, while sparing the people," he said.
"Any action against terrorists should target the Taliban, Osama bin Laden and their Pakistani protectors," he added. "If the action is a blind act, and innocent people suffer, then of course we are against it."
Iran's interior ministry also called on provincial officials to continue cooperating with domestic and international relief agencies to help Afghan refugees -- TEHRAN (AFP)
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)