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Former Afghan Warlord Leaves Iran Under Pressure - 2002-02-27


Former Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a vocal opponent of the interim Afghan government, has left Iran under pressure from the Iranian government.

Iran had threatened to expel Mr. Hekmatyar, who has lived in the country since 1996. His opposition to the interim Afghan government has angered officials in Iran, who have tried to show support for the new administration.

Iran's news agency says Mr. Hekmatyar left Tehran Tuesday and the Afghan Islamic Press quotes sources in Pakistan as saying he is headed toward Afghanistan. The sources gave no other details of his location.

An Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman has said that Mr. Hekmatyar will be treated as a war criminal if he returns to the country.

Mr. Hekmatyar rejected the international accord that established Afghanistan's new government, saying the pact negotiated in Germany late last year amounts to a U-S-imposed government. He also said he controlled armed dissident factions inside Afghanistan ready to resist the new government.

Iranian authorities shut down Mr. Hekmatyar's offices in Iran earlier this month. Iranian newspapers have said the move came after officials determined that he acted against the interests of Iranian national security.

The former warlord is blamed for the devastation that engulfed the Afghan capital of Kabul during fighting among Afghan factions after the fall of the Soviet-backed regime in 1992. He fled to Iran when the Taleban took control of Kabul in 1996.

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