Iran blames Afghan mess for terrorism, asks Pakistan to act

December 19th, 2008 - 8:16 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 19 (IANS) Underlining solidarity with India in the wake of the Mumbai carnage, Iran Friday asked Pakistan to deal with terrorism “with an iron hand” and advised the two countries to resolve issues with a “cool-headed” approach. Tehran also indicated that the progress in negotiations on the tri-nation pipeline that seeks to transport Iranian gas to India via Pakistan has been hit by the strain in the India-Pakistan ties in the aftermath of the terror strikes in Mumbai.

Blaming the US’ mismanagement of the situation in Afghanistan as the root cause of terrorism in the region, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Mahdi Akhounzadeh rebutted Pakistan’s attempt to link the Mumbai attacks with the Kashmir dispute between the two countries.

Asked what he considered was the root cause of terrorism in the region and terror attacks like the Nov 26 Mumbai strikes, Akhounzadeh told reporters: “The contemporary development in Afghanistan. There is a growing sense of insecurity in Afghanistan. The development in Afghanistan is alarming.”

“Those who tried to restore peace and stability have failed,” Akhounzadeh, who deals with Afghanistan, said in an obvious reference to the US’ policy in Afghanistan.

“The Pakistan government has to make a strong commitment that they will not tolerate terrorism. Pakistan must deal with terrorism with an iron hand,” he said when asked what Iran thought of India’s accusation about the involvement of Pakistan-based elements in the Mumbai attacks.

However, the deputy foreign minister advised India and Pakistan to resolve issues with maturity by not yielding to the designs of terrorists who want to torpedo peace and stability in the region.

“Terrorists should not dictate the policy. We should not fall victim to terrorists,” he said.

“India and Pakistan have political maturity to deal with these issues. They should take a futuristic look. We should not fall victim to provocation,” said Akhounzadeh, who has served as Iran’s ambassador to both India and Pakistan.

“We touched upon the issue at face value. We have to be vigilant about who are benefiting from it,” he said while referring to his discussions with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon Thursday night in which the Mumbai attacks figured prominently.

“Sporadic terrorist attacks should not deter the collective wisdom of Asian countries as they continue their march in social, economic and political fields. This century belongs to Asia,” Akhounzadeh replied when asked whether the $7.5 billion Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline has been affected by tensions between the two neighbours in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

He indicated that negotiations on the pipeline project may take some more time as India’s security concerns will be aggravated after the Mumbai attacks. The proposed pipeline will pass through Pakistani territory before it comes to India.

Earlier, India and Iran had agreed to a trilateral mechanism under which the oil ministers of the three countries will meet to discuss different issues related to the project.

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