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Iranian president calls for regional unity in first official visit to Afghanistan

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Tajikistan's President Emomali Rakhmon, left, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, speak during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, March 26, 2014. (AP Photo/S. Sabawoon, Pool) (The Associated Press)

In his first visit to Afghanistan as Iran's president, Hasan Rouhani has called for regional unity while at the same time saying international forces brought "destruction" to Afghanistan.

Rouhani and other regional leaders joined Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai in Kabul on Thursday in celebrating the Persian New Year, Nowruz.

Rouhani says Afghanistan has been occupied twice by foreign countries — a reference to the Soviet Union in the 1980s, and the U.S. and allied troops who ousted the Taliban.

He says "they brought violence and extremists to this country."

Iran opposes a security agreement that would allow thousands of foreign forces to stay in Afghanistan beyond the end of 2014.

Karzai has refused to sign the pact, but the main three contenders in elections to replace him said they would.