DUBAI May 12 Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei of Iran urged Pakistan on Monday to avoid "wicked" U.S.
influence and build stronger ties with Tehran, blaming
Washington for rising sectarian violence in the
Iranian-Pakistani border region that has strained relations.
Speaking to visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif,
Khamenei accused the United States and "some other governments"
of plotting a rift between the Muslim neighbours.
"We do have information on certain movements along our long
borders, with some trying to create insecurity, and we cannot
believe these are unprovoked and accidental," Khamenei said in
comments carried by Iranian media.
"America, whose wickedness is known to all, is among the
governments trying to make distance between Iran and Pakistan.
Besides America, there are other governments at work too."
Khamenei was referring to a recent spate of kidnappings and
cross-border raids in Iran's easternmost province of
Sistan-Baluchistan that have generally been claimed by Jaish
al-Adl (Army of Justice) rebels. They claim to herald the cause
of a disgruntled Sunni Muslim minority in Shi'ite-majority Iran.
An underdeveloped impoverished land with a high unemployment
rate, Sistan-Baluchistan is fertile ground for drug trafficking,
banditry and political violence and some stretches along the
border with Sunni-majority Pakistan are largely lawless.
The kidnapping of five Iranian border guards early this year
brought Tehran and Islamabad to the verge of conflict after
Iranian Revolutionary guards threatened to chase the rebels
inside Pakistan. Some Iranian politicians accused Islamabad of
secretly siding with the Jaish al-Adl rebels.
Relations have thawed, however, since four of the border
guards were released under ambiguous circumstances, although the
fifth was reported killed in captivity.
On his first official visit to Iran since his election as
prime minister last May, Sharif has pressed for steps to boost
bilateral trade. It has sunk by one third to around $1 billions
in recent years as Iran come under increasingly restrictive
international sanctions over its disputed nuclear programme.
"We hope to see during your tenure a good movement in
bilateral relations. One must not wait for permission from
others to develop relations," Khamenei told Sharif, in apparent
reference to the United States.
Meeting Sharif on Sunday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
urged Pakistan to expedite construction of its part of a
$7.5-billion natural gas pipeline from Iran to South Asia.
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)