July 14, 2008 / 8:40 AM / 11 years ago

Karzai opposes U.S. use of Afghan soil against Iran

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan opposes U.S. use of its territory for launching a possible attack against neighboring Iran, President Hamid Karzai said in an interview broadcast on Monday.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai interacts with the media members after a news conference in Kabul June 15, 2008. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

Iran has threatened to target Israel and U.S. interests in the region in the event of an attack against the Islamic Republic which is locked in a dispute with the West over its nuclear program.

Karzai said his government, which came to power after U.S.-led and Afghan forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001, had always tried to “keep the balance between the powers”.

“We are attentive to the dangers,” Karzai told Radio Liberty when asked about the possible repercussions of a conflict between Iran and the United States.

“Afghanistan should not become the battleground of differences of any country,” he said in a wide-ranging interview. “Afghanistan does not want its soil to be used against any country and Afghanistan wants to be a friend of Iran as a neighbor which shares the same language and religion.”

Karzai said his government had facilitated talks between Tehran and Washington, and had also served as a messenger between both in the past.

Washington, which has some 32,000 troops in Afghanistan and is the biggest aid donor to Kabul, has not ruled out military force against Iran.

Meanwhile, Karzai said foreign troops had ignored his repeated calls to coordinate operations with Afghan forces to avoid civilian casualties.

Nearly 700 Afghan civilians have been killed in the first six months of 2008, the United Nations says, 255 of them by Afghan and international forces.

“This in reality is a disaster ... many innocent people have been killed in the bombardment. For five years, routinely, I have been trying to prevent foreign forces from possibly harming our nation. Unfortunately, this effort has not had outcome I wanted, and as the nation expects,” Karzai said.

Karzai brushed aside reports about a possible postponement of next year’s presidential election due to rising violence.

He said Afghanistan favored good ties with its other large neighbor, Pakistan, but said there were “elements in Pakistan’s intelligence and Pakistan’s army” who did not want a stable Afghanistan.

Editing by Jeremy Laurence

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