Dushanbe: A US delegation walked out of a
conference in Tajikistan on Monday during a speech by Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lambasting US policy on
Afghanistan as the source of all the nation`s troubles.
Ahmadinejad launched his new tirade against Washington at
the meeting in the Tajik capital Dushanbe attended by leaders
of Afghanistan`s neighbours as well as a US delegation led by
Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake.
"The cause of all the ills in Afghanistan is the presence
on Afghan soil of NATO forces and above all those of the
United States," the Iranian president told the Regional
Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA).
As the firebrand Iranian president was giving his speech,
Blake pointedly led the US delegation out of the conference
hall. Once his address was over, the delegation returned to
listen to other speakers.
Encounters -- even at multinational regional conferences
-- between the United States and Iran are extremely rare.
The two countries cut diplomatic relations in the wake of
the 1979 Islamic Revolution and ties have remained severed
ever since. Tensions are rising again over Iran`s nuclear
programme and Washington has never ruled out military action.
Ahmadinejad, whose country shares a huge border with
Afghanistan, said that US forces had gone into the country
with the aim of encircling the whole strategic region from
Russia to south Asia.
"They went into Afghanistan using the pretext of the
fight against terror and now under the same slogan they are
surrounding Russia, India and China," Ahmadinejad said.
Iran`s president repeated his doubts on the September 11,
2001 terror attacks against the United States, which he
described as "enigmatic". The attacks -- claimed by Al Qaeda
and Osama bin Laden -- prompted the United States to invade
Using his trademark populist rhetoric, Ahmadinejad
declared that "the times of imperialism have long since
passed" and in reference to the West said that "those who do
not learn from the mistakes of history will be punished".
He called on foreign troops to leave Afghanistan "in the
shortest time" and said there was "no doubt that the world
needs a new order".
Ahmadinejad said that rather than keeping forces in
Afghanistan, NATO should hand over to the Afghan government
either 25 per cent of its annual expenditure in the country or
five per cent of its member states` annual military budgets.