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Iran won't back U.S. raid on Afghanistan



By Kasra Naji
CNN

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iran will not support any U.S. military action against neighboring Afghanistan in response to last week's attacks in New York and Washington, two top Iranian officials said Monday.

"We do not believe just in order to punish a bunch of terrorists it is legitimate to attack a country," Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi told CNN.

Iran's supreme spiritual leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told a meeting of clerics and officials that any military action against Afghanistan would "lead to a new human catastrophe."

"The innocent people of Afghanistan have suffered for 25 years. Are these Muslim people once more to be crushed because some people are alleged to have taken part in the attacks in the United States, although these accusations have not been proved?" Khamenei said.

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Despite long-standing enmity between Iran and the United States, Iranian officials have strongly condemned the attacks and expressed sympathy for Americans.

Iran also sealed off its long border with Afghanistan, where alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden has been living as the "guest" of the Taliban -- the fundamentalist Muslim faction that controls most of the country.

President Bush and other top American officials have said bin Laden is the prime suspect in the September 11 attacks.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday the American government had received "positive signals from Iran" about cooperation in the wake of the attacks -- signals he said were "worth exploring."

Powell said Iran -- one of the countries the United States regards as a sponsor of state terrorism -- should not be considered part of an international coalition U.S. officials are building in their war against terrorism.

He said Iranian officials have told U.S. officials they were "shocked" by last week's attacks, and he said they "may want to make cause against the Taliban."

"But will they make cause against other terrorist organizations that they have provided support to?" Powell said.

Kharazi said Iran would support "a genuine international cooperation," under the auspices of the United Nations, to combat terrorism. He shrugged off fears that Iran could itself become a target of efforts to eradicate terrorism.

"The international community, and ... particularly the Islamic world, will not buy that," he said.







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