Iran Backs Afghan Interim Government

Iran supports the Afghan interim government and has "no love for Al Qaeda or the Taliban," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Saturday.

"We got assurance from Iran on supporting the interim government," Annan told a joint press conference with Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi.

Iran pledged "maximum cooperation" with the central government in Kabul and rejected U.S. accusations Tehran was seeking to destabilize its neighbor.

Annan, on a regional tour to build support for Kabul's interim government, said Iranians were determined to keep Al Qaeda or Taliban members out if they attempted to enter Iran.

"They have no love for Al Qaeda or the Taliban, and they do not have ideological, religious or political support for either group," Annan told reporters. "They assured me ... they are determined to keep them out and if any of them have slipped in without the knowledge of the (Iranian) government, they will be hunted down and dealt with."

In return, Kharrazi said Iran actively supported Afghanistan's opposition northern alliance during the Taliban rule and now it was time for Tehran to back Afghanistan's interim government.

"Iran played an effective role during U.N.-organized peace talks in Bonn. We also took an appropriate share at Tokyo (donors conference) to rebuild Afghanistan. From now on, we will make maximum cooperation to strengthen the central government in Kabul," Kharrazi said.

Iran, which shares a 600-mile border with western Afghanistan, last week pledged $500 million in aid over five years to help rebuild Afghanistan.

The United States, which has no relations with Tehran, has warned Iran to stay out of Afghan politics. U.S. officials cited reports that Tehran is sending pro-Iranian Afghan fighters and money into Afghanistan to back allied factions and co-religionists of the Shiite Muslim minority, charges which Kharrazi rejected.