Afghans protest Iran fuel truck ban

Hundreds of Afghans demonstrated outside the Iranian Embassy in Kabul Friday to protest Iran`s blocking of thousands of fuel trucks at the border with Afghanistan.

Updated: Jan 07, 2011, 16:12 PM IST

Kabul: Hundreds of Afghans demonstrated
outside the Iranian Embassy in Kabul Friday to protest Iran`s blocking of thousands of fuel trucks at the border with Afghanistan, a step that has sent domestic fuel prices soaring
as the country`s harsh winter sets in.

The unofficial ban on fuel trucks crossing the
Iran-Afghanistan border began about two weeks ago, with about
2,500 trucks stuck at the crossing. The move, which Afghan
officials have criticised as being tantamount to an embargo,
has led wholesale domestic fuel prices to rise as much as 70
per cent.

Carrying banners and chanting "down with Iran", about
300 to 400 people marched through the streets of Kabul to
demonstrate outside the Iranian embassy.

"It has been two weeks that the government of Iran has
been blocking the fuel tankers to Afghanistan, and this comes
at a time the Afghan people are going through winter," said
Najibullah Kabuli, a former member of Parliament.

He called the ban "sanctions against the widows and
orphans of the Afghan people."

Earlier this week, Iran acknowledged a link between
the ban and Tehran`s recent decision to slash domestic fuel
subsidies to cut costs and boost an economy squeezed by
international sanctions.
Afghan officials say Iran has also told them it is
concerned the shipments are destined for NATO forces operating
in Afghanistan. But NATO and Afghan officials deny that,
insisting the fuel is destined for civilian consumer use.

Afghanistan, which has no refineries of its own and is
mired in an almost decade-long war against the Taliban and
other militants, relies entirely on imported fuel. Iran
supplies about 30 per cent of the country`s refined fuel, and
the remainder of the blocked shipments are from Iraq and
Turkmenistan and are only moving through Iran, Afghan
officials say.
Senior Afghan officials recently travelled to Tehran
to discuss the issue. Farid Shirzai, head of the Afghan
Commerce Ministry`s fuel department, said on Tuesday that Iran
had begun allowing 40 trucks per day through its borders with
three western Afghan provinces, up from about four trucks per
day in the preceding two weeks.

Bureau Report