Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Afghanistan's Karzai makes official visit to Iran

Afghanistan's Karzai makes official visit to Iran: "Afghanistan's Karzai makes official visit to Iran
AFP: 1/26/2005
TEHRAN, Jan 26 (AFP) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai arrived in Iran on Wednesday for a two-day visit mainly focused on boosting economic relations and inaugurating a new cross-border highway, officials said.

Karzai, at the head of a high-ranking political and economic delegation and on his first visit to Iran since taking office as elected president, held talks with President Mohammad Khatami.

On Thursday they are scheduled to inaugurate a new highway linking the northeastern Iranian border town of Dogharoun with the Afghan city of Herat. Iran built the 120-kilometre (80-mile) road at a cost of 60 million dollars.

The two presidents are also due to open a 132-kilowatt power transmission line, the state news agency IRNA reported.

Afghan government officials said while the visit would be largely centered on improving business ties, the two sides were also set to discuss "general security issues" and the repatriation of Afghan refugees living in Iran.

On January 15, the UN refugee agency threatened to suspend aid for Afghan refugees in Iran unless Tehran stopped their forced repatriation.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Ruud Lubbers said that the Iranian authorities were exerting undue pressure on Afghan refugees to return home.

The authorities were suspending education and medical care for the refugees and revoking their residence permits so that police who stopped them on the street could threaten them with deportation, he said."

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