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'India, Pak and Iran should help Afghanistan reconciliation'

December 23, 2011 13:55 IST
Iran on Friday pitched for a regional solution to the Afghan problem, saying countries like India and Pakistan can help in the reconciliation process in the war-torn nation.

The situation in Afghanistan came for discussion during the meeting between visiting Iranian leader Ali Akbar Velayati and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh where both sides agreed that the two countries could help in bringing peace and tranquility in the region.

"We have to look for solution within the region. Iran believes that people of the region are also eager to find a solution to the Afghan problem," Velayati, who is the advisor on International Affairs to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, told the media in New Delhi, a day after his meeting with the prime minister.

During his media interaction, Velayati talked about the issue of India's payment to Iran for oil imports, prospect of Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, India's stand on Iran's nuclear programme and situation in West Asia.

Asked about specific areas of cooperation on Afghanistan, Velayati said India, Iran, Pakistan and some Central Asian countries should help in arranging the reconciliation process among various Afghan groups. "Neighbouring countries of Afghanistan should help in bringing peace and development in the country. We believe that the people of Afghanistan should decide their future and India and Iran should help them in the process," he said. However, he made it clear that it did not mean that "we want to interfere in the internal matters of Afghanistan".

About the decision of the international forces to withdraw from Afghanistan, Velayati said they had no other choice but to take such a step sooner or later. If the United States forces continue to remain there, they would have faced the same situation as they faced in Vietnam, he said.

Velayati said the issue of India's payment to Iran for oil imports also came up for discussion with the prime minister briefly. He said that Dr Singh told him that the issue was being resolved. It is learnt that India was discussing with Russia ways for routing payments to Iran from banks in Moscow.

"We have not gone into the details because I know that things are being discussed between two sides and some some steps have been taken and according to my knowledge and my understanding, both sides are eager to solve it," Velayati said.

Dr Singh told him that Iran was one of the largest oil suppliers to India and will continue its cooperation, he said.  "Of course, there are some technical difficulties that should be solved. The prime minister said he was trying to solve these difficulties. We can solve these problems with bilateral understanding," he said.

On the $ 7.4 billion Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, he said the matter is bogged down due to transit issues with Pakistan. "This is not a problem between Iran and India. Iran wants to sell gas to India but the problem is of transit. I think this issue should be solved by India and Pakistan," he said.

"If it is solved, there is no problem between Iran and India... We have gas reserve and India needs guaranteed energy sources" to fulfill its development programmes, he said.

Velayati said Iran wanted to have customers like India with which bilateral relations are deep-rooted. He described as "positive" India's stand at the United Nation on Iran's nuclear programme.

"This is a friendly position taken by India. Of course, India also said Iran should abide by its international obligations. We also agree with it," Velayati said.

On the situation in West Asia in the light of developments in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, Velayati said it had changed "dramatically" but it was difficult to anticipate. He described as "important" the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and said they had come there to remain but took the decision to pull out because of domestic compulsions.

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