Top U.S. general says Iranian weapons in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iranian weapons headed for Taliban fighters were intercepted in Afghanistan in the last month, according to the United States’ top general on Tuesday.

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, stopped short of saying Iran’s government had provided the weapons. Instead, he said he was not sure which Iranian “entity” was responsible.

His comments mark the first U.S. accusations that Iran’s Shi’ite government could be helping the Sunni Taliban. The Bush administration regularly accuses Iranian forces of supplying and training insurgents in Iraq.

“It is not as clear in Afghanistan which Iranian entity is responsible but we have intercepted weapons in Afghanistan headed for the Taliban that were made in Iran,” Pace told reporters in Washington.

“We do not know with the same clarity we know in Iraq who is delivering those weapons, who is involved,” he said.

During the years that the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, Iran supported Afghan groups fighting the group, including the Northern Alliance which played a crucial role in toppling Taliban after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

In 1998, Iran almost went to war with Afghanistan after the Taliban government killed 10 Iranian diplomats.

Pace said Iranian-made mortars and C-4 explosives were intercepted in Kandahar by coalition forces.

He did not provide further details, saying he knew only that the weapons were made in Iran and were on their way to the Taliban.

Tensions are high between Washington and Tehran. The United States and others accuse Iran of seeking nuclear weapons behind the cover of a nuclear energy program, a charge Tehran denies.

U.S. officials and commanders also say Iran is fueling chaos in Iraq by providing weapons and training to Shi’ite militants. Last week, for example, the U.S. military said Iranian intelligence services were giving weapons to militants and that gunmen were being trained in Iran in the use of lethal roadside bombs.

Iranian officials have dismissed such charges.