Iran says it will end Afghan fuel blockade

Fuel tankers stuck at border would enter Afghanistan during next 4 days.

Kabul: Iran told the Afghan government on Tuesday
that it will stop blocking thousands of tanker trucks trying
to move fuel into Afghanistan, authorities announced.

An Afghan government statement said the Iranian
ambassador to Afghanistan, Fada Hussain Maliki, told President
Hamid Karzai that the fuel tankers still stuck at the border
would be allowed to enter Afghanistan during the next four

The Iranians began barring fuel trucks from crossing the
Iran-Afghanistan border in late December, leaving about 2,500
trucks stuck at three crossings. The move, which Afghan
officials have criticised as being tantamount to an embargo,
has led fuel prices to rise as much as 70 per cent.

Tehran has said the ban was linked to its recent decision
to slash domestic fuel subsidies in a bid to cut costs and
boost an economy squeezed by international sanctions. Afghan
officials said Iran also had expressed concern that fuel
shipments were supplying NATO forces in Afghanistan.

"This fuel doesn`t belong to NATO, it belongs to the poor
Afghan people," said Farid Shirzai, head of the Afghan
Commerce Ministry`s fuel department.

Iran supplies about 30 per cent of the country`s refined
fuel, Afghan officials say. The remainder of the blocked
shipments come from Iraq and Turkmenistan, but must transit
through Iran.

Between 1,400 and 1,500 of the original 2,500 stranded
tankers are still waiting to cross into Afghanistan. Shirzai
said Iran allowed about 40 tanker trucks to cross the border
at three crossings yesterday.

The presidential statement said Iran has asked the Afghan
government to confirm the country`s fuel needs, and then it
will allow that much fuel to enter.

"It is very difficult for the poor people," Mohammad
Asif, a Kabul resident, said today. "I have a motorbike and to
fill it with fuel costs lots of money. It is a very bad
action" by the Iranian government.

One of the reasons the tankers remained stuck at the
border was because Afghanistan had refused to disclose the
amount of its domestic fuel consumption, according to the
semiofficial Fars news agency in Tehran, which quoted a
statement by the Iranian embassy in Kabul.

The embassy statement said Iran had allowed 929 fuel
tankers carrying more than 70,000 tons of fuel to enter
Afghanistan since December 20 and that future cross-border
shipments would be based on a mutual agreement between the two

Bureau Report