Russian And Iranian Defense Ministers Stressed Identity Of Positions Of Their Countries In The Fight Against International Terrorism And Drugs Trafficking In Central Asia

On Tuesday in the wake of his negotiations with Ali Shamkhani, Iranian Defense minister, Russian Defense minister Sergei Ivanov stated that he considered Iran as one of the key partners in the fight against international terrorism and narcotics trafficking in the Central Asian region. The head of the Russian military department gave a high assessment to the position of Iran on the issue of the Russian anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya. Ivanov stressed that "it was always a principal and consistent one". The minister reminded that the territory of Afghanistan "was a refuge for many terrorist groups as well as a large market for narcotics trafficking". That is why the two states "were most actively supporting the Northern Alliance" which, as the minister stressed, "was a coalition of broad people's masses (it comprised Tajiks, Uzbeks, Ismailites and even Pushtuns)." Ivanov stated that the Iranian armed forces opposed movement of narcotics caravans from Afghanistan to neighbouring countries and were suffering losses in doing that. Ali Shamkhani, Iranian Defense minister announced to journalists his full agreement with Ivanov's statements and stressed the support by Iran of the legitimate government of Afghanistan part of which the Northern Alliance constituted. The minister stated that Iranian authorities "continued to provide assistance to the Northern Alliance and through it to the people of Afghanistan". At the same time Shamkhani expressed his concern "over the double standard approach in relation to terrorism". The minister reminded of one of the numerous terrorist acts in Iran when the president, prime-minister and several deputies of the Parliament (Mojles) were killed. According to Shamkhani, at that time the act triggered inadequate reaction from some Western countries, "many of which until recently were supporting terrorists and terrorism, and nowadays are speaking in favour of the fight against terrorism". The minister was of the opinion that the time came for the world community "to give new and more correct meaning to the notion of terrorism and terrorists". Shamkhani appealed to the West "to renounce the double standard approach, after which it would become possible to initiate a new fight against international terrorism". The Iranian minister also expressed concern over the fact that "certain states might abuse the situation in Afghanistan to strengthen their military presence in the region". He thinks that this can be prevented by providing joint assistance to the people of Afghanistan and its legitimate government to rid the country of terrorists and narcotics dealers. According to him, Iran will even support air strikes against terrorists' bases in the territory of Afghanistan only conditioned by actions taken within the UN framework.

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