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Iran, Northern Alliance Oppose Big British Troop Deployment In Afghanistan - 2001-11-22


Iran and Afghanistan's Northern Alliance have told Britain that they do not support a large-scale British troop deployment in Afghanistan.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw met separately today (Thursday) in Tehran with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and the Northern Alliance's envoy, Abdullah Abdullah. Those talks are part of Mr. Straw's regional tour that includes Pakistan.

Mr. Kharrazi told the British official that "deployment of foreign forces will further complicate the situation in Afghanistan." Iran contends that Afghans will have to work among themselves to find solutions for their country's problems, including the formation of a post-Taleban government.

Mr. Abdullah says the Northern Alliance is open to foreign humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan, but not to foreign troop deployments.

The United States has also expressed reservations about Britain sending large numbers of troops.

Britain has maintained a force of six-thousand on ready reserve for possible use in Afghanistan, and already has a small unit of fewer than 100 guarding an airport near Kabul.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Straw's talks in Pakistan about a future Afghan government will highlight Islamabad's sharp difference of opinion with Tehran on that issue. Pakistan has insisted that Afghanistan's large Pashtun segment take the dominant role after the Taleban. But Iran wants Afghanistan's Shi'a Muslim minority to have a strong voice. Iran has been wary of the Pastuns because of that group's support for the Taleban.

Afghanistan's ethnic factions are expected to meet Monday in Bonn to discuss how a post-Taleban government should be forged. The Northern Alliance has insisted that the Taleban be excluded from the Bonn meeting.

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