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Iran Report: February 11, 2002

11 February 2002, Volume 5, Number 5

IRAN USES 'BLACK PROPAGANDA' IN AFGHANISTAN. Possibly as a reaction to U.S. accusations that a) Iran is harboring members of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and b) Iranian allies in Western Afghanistan are threatening the country's stability, Iran is making similar accusations about U.S. allies in other parts of Afghanistan. So far, the sources of these reports are not being named. The vehicle for relaying this black propaganda -- propaganda that originates from one source but is attributed to another -- is Iranian state radio's transmitter in Mashhad, the Dari broadcasts of which can be heard in Kabul and many other parts of Afghanistan.

An "informed source in Kandahar" said that Kandahar Governor Gul Agha Shirzai and his spokesman, Khalid Pashtun, have established "good and friendly relations" with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and are cooperating with it, Mashhad radio reported on 4 February. Moreover, former Taliban who are loyal to the ISI have joined Shirzai's forces, and the ISI is trying to re-establish itself in Afghanistan. The ISI also is trying to disrupt the relationship between Pashtuns in southern Afghanistan and Iran. The anonymous source went on to say that the ISI wants to disrupt Kabul's official policy of having good relations with all its neighbors, and an "unfriendly attitude towards neighbors [is] against Afghanistan's national interest."

Mashhad radio claimed on 4 February that U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad actually encouraged Shirzai and other local leaders, and they tried to start an ethnic conflict by propagandizing against the governors in Afghanistan's south and southwest. Moreover, according to Mashhad radio, Khalilzad encouraged Shirzai to release some of his high-ranking Taliban captives.

An anonymous "senior official" of the predominantly-Shia Hizb-i Wahdat said that Al-Qaeda personnel are dressing like Afghans and sneaking across the border into Pakistan, Mashhad radio reported on 3 February. Once there, they are helped by Pashtun tribes and given false documents, and then some of them make their way to Kashmir and Chechnya. (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN ADMITS AL-QAEDA AND TALIBAN COULD ENTER IRAN. After numerous claims about the security of its frontiers in the face of allegations that Tehran has provided refuge to Al-Qaeda and Taliban personnel, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi conceded that the terrorists could have entered Iran, and one day later Minister of Intelligence and Security Ali Yunesi admitted that Taliban supporters have entered Iran.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said during ABC television's "This Week" talk show on 3 February, "We have any number of reports that Iran has been permissive and allowed transit through their country of Al-Qaeda [members]."

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi rejected Rumsfeld's statement the next day. Assefi said that Iran has "full control" over its 936-kilometer border with Afghanistan, and it would not be in Tehran's interests to allow Al-Qaeda personnel to enter the country. Assefi explained the situation by saying, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), "The recent U.S. accusations against Iran are inspired and dictated by the Zionist regime."

Yet it has been obvious for many years that Tehran does not have full control over its borders. Tehran's official news agency, IRNA, carries frequent reports from all over Iran about the seizure of narcotics that originate in Afghanistan. Moreover, poorly paid provincial personnel could be fairly easy to bribe.

Foreign Minister Kharrazi admitted on 5 February that Tehran is doing its best but it cannot fully control the border: "We are making our utmost effort, but the reality is that it is not possible to control this long border completely." Kharrazi's admission not only contradicted his spokesman's most recent statement, but it contradicted his president and himself. Kharrazi had said on 12 January that "Iran has completely closed its borders," and President Mohammad Khatami told British Prime Minister Tony Blair on 13 January that, "The borders of Iran and Afghanistan are totally closed and total border controls mean that we will never permit terrorists or terrorist groups to cross the borders" (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 21 January 2002).

Indeed, Kharrazi urged the U.S. to provide any relevant information: "Instead of waging negative propaganda, the Americans had better give us any information they have about the entry of Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces into the Islamic Republic." Kharrazi added, "Iran, like in the past, arrests many foreign nationals for illegal entry each day on its borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan. We will certainly deal with any Taliban and Al-Qaeda members if they are found among those detained."

Two days later, on 7 February, Minister of Intelligence and Security Yunesi said that Iran had arrested "a number" of foreigners who initially had rushed to the Taliban's aid and later, after they fled Afghanistan, entered Iran through Pakistani Baluchistan, according to state television. He added, according to IRNA, that many others are preparing to enter Iran and urged Pakistan to stop them. Yunesi accused the U.S. of supporting the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, and he was adamant that no Al-Qaeda members were in Iran because they "believe Iran to be the most insecure and dangerous country for them."

Meanwhile, Haji Mahmud Akram, a captured former Taliban who describes himself as Osama bin Laden's chef, claims that his boss fled to Iran and may go on to Azerbaijan or Chechnya, "The Christian Science Monitor" reported on 6 February. Akram said that bin Laden had received escape offers from Iran, Iraq, and from "some mafia types.... We received a lot of Iranian currency, and the commanders distributed it to the soldiers." Regarding his own capture, Akram said that he was hesitant about going to Iran, so when he was praying his buddies drove off in a truck and left him behind. Akram has been tortured, and it is possible that he would make up anything to get away from his captors; but the information he has provided on other subjects corresponds with that of other bin Laden associates. (Bill Samii)

HEKMATYAR: THE GUEST WHO STAYED TOO LONG. Former Afghan Prime Minister and Mujahedin commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has been living in Iran since 1996. In that time he has often criticized Tehran's Afghan policy and its Afghan allies, but Tehran has put up with him. Now Tehran's tolerance with its outspoken guest seems to have ended, possibly because of U.S. allegations that Tehran is trying to undermine the Kabul administration, and the Iranian government is thinking about expelling Hekmatyar.

Hekmatyar was a powerful commander during the war against the Soviets and was also the main recipient of U.S. and Saudi funding channeled through Pakistan. He later served as prime minister in the government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani, an uneasy alliance of the Mujahedin groups that had expelled the Soviets. This grouping fell apart, and Hekmatyar's forces participated in a battle that leveled parts of Kabul.

Hekmatyar's former spokesman and publicity chief during the war against the Soviets is Haji Mangal Hussein, who now serves as Afghanistan's minister of irrigation. He explained Hekmatyar's behavior during an interview in Kabul with the "RFE/RL Iran Report." "I found Hekmatyar very much [an] unstable person. He is always a position-seeking person. He doesn't have a constant policy or a stable policy, you know.... He was against the Northern Alliance, he was against the administration here, he fought against the administration, he destroyed half of Kabul, and then later on he joined this administration."

Having alienated his Pakistani allies -- who by 1996 were supporting the Taliban -- Hekmatyar made his way to Iran. There he came out against the Afghan groups that formed the Northern Alliance, or United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan. He also got involved with the Cyprus Process, which was initiated in 1999 by Tehran as a counter to other Afghan peace processes.

As it became increasingly obvious that Afghanistan would face military action for the 11 September terrorist attack against the U.S., Hekmatyar became more outspoken. In early October, he criticized Tehran for supporting the Northern Alliance and denounced the Northern Alliance for its willingness to cooperate with the U.S. He then said he was negotiating with the Taliban, and in case of a U.S. military attack he would return to oppose the U.S. forces. He had not really changed his theme by November, and he claimed that he was in touch with all Afghans, even Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Haji Mangal Hussein pointed out the inconsistencies in Hekmatyar's behavior. "Initially he was against the Taliban," he told the "RFE/RL Iran Report." "He termed the Taliban as creatures of the United States of America, as creatures of Great Britain; he mentioned the name of the former British Ambassador to Islamabad, Mr. Nicholas Barrington, as the creator of the Taliban. But later on he was willing to join the Taliban."

Hekmatyar also criticized the Bonn peace talks, although Cyprus Process representatives participated in them and his Iranian hosts were actively involved in bringing the different sides together. Hekmatyar said in the 8 January "Jomhuri-yi Islami," "The Bonn conference was an American conference, and it was managed under American control and sponsorship. America would be providing justifications, line of action, the way forward, texts, and it would tell the participants to sign them. I would feel ashamed to participate in a meeting under America's influence, and I am proud that I kept away from that disgraceful meeting." The daily pointed out that Hekmatyar had not been invited, to which he responded, "I would not have participated even if they had invited me a hundred times." Hekmatyar is not very impressed with Afghanistan's current administration, which he described as "worthless," or its leader, Hamid Karzai.

But in the opinion of Haji Mangal Hussein, Hekmatyar has not given up his pursuit of a leadership position. "But even now I have heard that his delegation is here in Kabul, and therefore I can say that he is not a stable person. He is a power-thirsty person. He is just after power; he doesn't have a special policy or ideology. His main targets are to be in power, to be in a stronger position."

Now it appears that Hekmatyar has gone too far, especially because Tehran wants to give the impression that it is backing stability in Afghanistan. Iranian Interior Minister Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari said that Tehran may expel Hekmatyar, and it is discussing this subject with Kabul, IRNA reported on 6 February. "Iran is not a place for any individual or group to make mischievous acts or any other action," the Iranian interior minister said, and he added that the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security is investigating the Afghan's case and action would be forthcoming. The question then becomes: Who would accept Hekmatyar, or will he return to Kabul to face trial for his part in destroying the city? (Bill Samii)

AFGHANS STRUGGLE WITH IRANIAN INTERFERENCE. Tehran played a positive role in stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan, first by aiding the Northern Alliance and then by ironing out differences between the different groups involved in the Bonn accords. But now it appears to be following a different agenda: Tehran could undermine stability in Afghanistan by arming various factions there. In one case, local officials were able to overcome their differences, but it is not clear how easily this will be accomplished in the future as Tehran continues its efforts to exert influence in Afghanistan.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during ABC television's "This Week" talk show on 3 February expressed concern about numerous recent reports that Tehran has been arming various elements in Afghanistan. Over the last month, apprehension has been expressed about Tehran's special relationship with Ismail Khan, the governor of Herat Province, which abuts the Iranian border. Not only are his armed followers allegedly equipped, clothed, and paid by Tehran, but also there are other armed groups operating in the province with Iranian support. One such group, 300 men known as the Army of Mohammad, is based at three different bases around Herat and receives training from Iranian advisers, according to a 1 February report from Cox News Service. And in an 18 January interview, U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad suggested that elements of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' al-Qods Brigade have joined Afghan fighters in Herat.

Gul Agha Shirzai, the governor of Kandahar Province, discussed the extent of Iranian assistance to Ismail Khan in an interview with RFE/RL's Turkmen Service. "Some weeks ago there were about 2,000 pieces of weapons and 130 cars [trucks] of foodstuff sent [by Iran]. We also confiscated 250 Kalashnikovs in Khakrez Woluswali, which were from Iran. Foreigners and UN saw the situation [weapons]. Then I told Iran itself in my interview not to interfere [in Afghan affairs]; I said that we do not need guns now but other things. When you [Iran] provide assistance you should contact the center [central Afghan government] and give assistance through the center, not give money and aid and weapons separately to every commander. It is illegal and un-Islamic, and the world does not accept it either."

A spokesman for Shirzai, Mohammad Yusef Pashtun, had said earlier that senior Iranian military officers were operating in Farah, Nimruz and Helmand Provinces (see "RFE/RL Iran Report, 28 January 2002). He alleged that they were trying to lure local warlords away from cooperating with the administration in Kabul.

Tehran's purported reason for arming Ismail Khan and other warlords in western Afghanistan goes beyond the desire to have a friendly neighbor who can ensure border security, although Iranian officials have praised Ismail Khan for that very reason. It seems more likely that Tehran is trying to create a sphere of influence in western Afghanistan and an area in which Tehran's remit exceeds that of Kabul. And there is more to this than the provision of arms and money. Herat's markets are full of Iranian goods, from soft drinks to crockery and teapots. The hotels are full of Iranian businessmen hoping to make deals. Locals complain that the best deals require Iranian approval. And in a 6 February meeting, Iranian Ambassador to Kabul Mohammad Reza Bahrami told Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Rahim Shirzai that, "Iran is willing to provide electricity for Afghanistan's Herat Province and regions in the vicinity," IRNA reported.

There were reports in late January that an armed force from Kandahar would attack Herat because of Iranian interference there. Gul Agha Shirzai discussed these reports in his interview with RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, but he said the issue was resolved peacefully.

Shirzai said, "Others made interviews saying that Gul Agha has gathered 20,000 Mujahids to attack Herat. It was not so. Before I went to London, I sent a delegation to Turan Ismail [Ismail Khan] to discuss the issues [connected to the] problems of Iranian interference -- [Iran] sends money and weapons and [its representatives] have come to Helmand. Some businesspeople together with their cars and wares were seized. Some of the businessmen were my landsmen [from Kandahar], I sent a delegation. This problem has been solved. This morning [3 February], they told me by telephone that the problem has been resolved and the equipment and people will be released, and Turan Ismail has said that, 'I [Ismail Khan] will not do this in future.'"

Two "senior intelligence officials" in Kabul's interim administration also allege that Tehran is channeling cars, trucks, weapons, ammunition, and cash to Deputy Defense Minister Abdul Rashid Dostum, who controls the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, the "Chicago Tribune" reported on 8 February.

Bamiyan is another place in which Iranians would like to be active. But Karim Khalili of the Hizb-i Wahdat, the main political organization in the area, declared on 4 February, "Politically, Iran does not agree with the war of the Americans against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. We are on the side of the Americans in this fight and that shows we do not agree with Iran," according to AFP. Soldiers from the 5th Special Forces Group are in Bamiyan to perform what they describe as humanitarian work. Foreign aid workers, however, allege that the Green Berets are training troops linked with the Hizb-i Wahdat, Knight Ridder reported on 2 February, and they are involved in operations to detain members of Al-Qaeda.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi denied on 6 January that Tehran is interfering in Afghan affairs. He said that it would not be "logical" for Tehran to weaken the Kabul government after helping its establishment, and he explained further, "Iranians' contacts with Afghans [are] intended for helping the Afghan people, and this is not against the regional peace and security. But, we are aware that these links should be in coordination with the central Afghan government." Indeed, it is possible that the Afghans, recognizing American sensitivity about Iranian motives, are making exaggerated claims about Tehran's efforts in the northern and central parts of the country in order to prolong the American presence and extract more assistance from Washington.

Already there has been fighting between warlords in Gardez and in Mazar-i-Sharif. Regardless of the reasoning behind Iranian actions in western and northern Afghanistan, they are threatening to undermine the modicum of stability in the country even further. But the ability of Gul Agha Shirzai to defuse the crisis in his region suggests that the Afghans are better off handling issues without foreign interference. (Bill Samii)

'WE ARE NEITHER AFGHANISTAN, NOR ARE WE IRAQ' -- MILITARY IS READY. The Iranian military community -- from the commander in chief to the Basiji -- has reacted defiantly to perceived threats from the U.S., which is not an unexpected development during the anniversary of the revolution, also known as the "Ten-Day Dawn." Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a 7 February speech broadcast by state radio that "everyone in the world should understand that the Iranian nation would never instigate an act of aggression.... But they must understand that anyone who attacks this country and threatens its interests will face this nation's harsh and regrettable response."

Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Ali Shamkhani said during a 5 February factory inauguration that President George W. Bush's recent comments about Iran were meant to undermine its national unity and capabilities. Shamkhani went on to say, according to state television, that it would be a mistake to attack Iran's independence: "We are neither Afghanistan, nor are we Iraq." Armed Forces General Headquarters Commander Major General Hassan Aqai-Firuzabadi also discussed Bush's statements during the graduation ceremony at Shahid Sattari Air Force Academy, according to state television on 6 February. "Today the words of the Great Satan and the egotistic leaders of America are reminiscent of the futile slogans of the German Nazis," Firuzabadi said, and he warned that, "The country's armed forces, led by the eminent leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei], are ready to defend the country with all their capabilities."

Navy Commander Rear Admiral Abbas Mohtaj told cadets at the Imam Khomeini naval base in Noshahr that the navy is monitoring regional developments and would deal strongly with any threats, IRNA reported on 4 February. Air Force commander Brigadier General Reza Pardis told reporters that the air force is vigilant in guarding national airspace, and it is making progress in building long-range rockets and in using laser-based equipment, IRNA reported.

Islamic Revolution Guards Corps commander Yahya Rahim-Safavi told Friday Prayers worshippers in Mashhad on 8 February, "If America plans an attack against the Islamic Iran, we will respond resolutely and with necessary force." Rahim-Safavi said Bush's statements are meant to justify his defense budget and to draw attention away from domestic crises, IRNA reported. Deputy IRGC commander Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr said, "We are not warmongers, but when it comes to defending our country's independence, we will teach the aggressor a lesson which history will remember forever," according to state radio on 6 February. He warned that the U.S. would find itself in a quagmire if it attacked Iran. Acting Basij commander Brigadier General Ismail Ahmadi-Moqaddam said Bush's statements were meant only for domestic consumption, IRNA reported, but the Basij should be prepared to defend the country.

The commander of the Basij, Lieutenant General Mohammad Hejazi, was getting ready in another way. He was in Syria, meeting with First Lieutenant-General Mustafa Talas, who serves as defense minister, deputy prime minister, and deputy commander in chief of the army and armed forces, as well as Lieutenant General Hassan Turkmani, chief of staff of the army and armed forces. They discussed cooperation between their armies, Damascus radio reported on 4 February. (Bill Samii)

SHAMKHANI: NO NUKES. Asked how Iran would react to an Israeli attack against the Bushehr nuclear reactor, Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Ali Shamkhani declared, "If Israel carries out such an action, it will receive a response, which no politician in Israel can even imagine." Shamkhani denied that Iran would resort to nuclear weapons, Al-Jazeera television reported on 4 February, and he added, "Actions will speak." There was Israeli concern about this very topic because of Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani's 14 December Friday prayers sermon. "If one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists' strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world," he said. (Bill Samii)

RENEWED UNREST OVER KHORASAN SPLIT. Shopkeepers in Sabzevar, a city in the northeastern province of Khorasan, closed their stores to protest the parliament's 3 February legislation on dividing Khorasan Province into three smaller provinces, "Jomhuri-yi Islami" reported. The new bill creates a Northern Khorasan Province, with Bojnurd as its capital; a Southern Khorasan province, with Birjand as its capital; and Mashhad, which currently is the capital of Khorasan Province, would be capital of Khorasan Razavi Province. Sabzevarians hoped for the creation of a West Khorasan in which their city would be the capital, and late-August riots over this issue were suppressed violently by security forces (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 3 September 2001). The new bill requires approval by the Guardians Council. A column in the 13 January issue of "Resalat" noted that the Interior Ministry in 1996-98 produced a 600-page report, which incorporated the views of 200,000 experts on the best way to divide Khorasan Province, and the resulting plan called for a five-way split in which Sabzevar would be one of the new provincial capitals. Under the current three-way split, the population will be unevenly divided, with 600,000 people in Southern Khorasan, 1 million in Northern Khorasan, and about 5 million in Khorasan Razavi. (Bill Samii)

PRODUCERS OF 'RED GOLD' HAVE A TOUGH YEAR. Shahram Vaez-Zadeh, manager of the agriculture and food industries at the Export Promotion Center of Iran, announced on 14 January that Iran has exported 90 tons of saffron in the nine months since March 2001. He went on to tell the meeting, sponsored by the State Saffron Headquarters and held at the Khorasan Agricultural Jihad Organization, that European states and Iran's Persian Gulf neighbors had imported Iranian saffron. Compared to the same period one year earlier, he went on to say, saffron exports had increased by 15.5 percent in weight and 28 percent in value.

In September, construction on a saffron-production, -processing, and -research plant began at the Qayen Industrial City in Khorasan Province. It is expected to generate 200 jobs directly and provide another 5,000 jobs in the support and technical-services areas. And in June, Abolqasem Mohammadipur, managing director of a saffron-producing company, said that Iran produced about 70 percent of the world's saffron, some 170 tons.

But not all the news coming from this segment of the agriculture sector is so positive, and there are complaints about a lack of government support. In an October letter to President Mohammad Khatami, saffron-exporting merchants from Khorasan described some of their complaints, "Kar va Kargar" reported. They said they had suffered greatly as a result of foreign-exchange fluctuations after the government promised a fixed rate set at above 8,000 rials to the dollar. But then the Central Bank of Iran cut the rate to below 8,000:1. Moreover, the rules for determining compensation on export losses were changed. According to the new rules, only pre-November 2000 exports will be compensated, whereas any exports after that date are viewed as profitable.

Mohsen Ehtesham of the Travand Company said in September that the primary problem facing the saffron sector is the continuing use of traditional cultivation methods. Processing and packaging facilities, he added, must be built closer to the saffron-cultivation areas. Mohammadipur added that some of the exports are made unofficially and in an unhealthy manner, and this could jeopardize the international standing of Iranian saffron. He also criticized the imposition of foreign-exchange guarantees.

Almost exactly one year ago, Khorasan Province saffron farmers said that a major problem for them was the drought and the higher cost of water. This added expense came at a time when saffron prices dropped. Buyers, meanwhile, were taking advantage of the farmers' needs and only offering them low prices. A saffron vendor named Arasteh said in the "Khorasan" newspaper, "[T]hey purchase the product of the hard-earned labor of this toiling class at any price they wish." (Bill Samii)

AFGHAN MINISTER DISCUSSES OPIUM ERADICATION. Over the last decade, Afghanistan has become the world's biggest producer of opium. It produced some 185 metric tons of raw opium in 2001, according to the UN Drug Control Program, and the year before it produced some 3,275 metric tons of raw opium. This significant difference was due to the Taliban's July 2000 ban on opium cultivation; but now cultivation has resumed, much to the concern of the international community.

The comments of Afghan interim administration chief Hamid Karzai reflect his sensitivity to such concerns. He told the UN Security Council on 30 January: "Our country became an exporter of narcotics and a haven for drug traffickers and terrorists. We are committed to taking vigorous action to contain and eliminate the cultivation of poppy. We have issued a decree imposing a complete ban on the cultivation of poppy."

Afghanistan's minister of irrigation, Haji Mangal Hussein, discussed the requirements for eliminating opium poppy cultivation with the "RFE/RL Iran Report" in Kabul. Although the administration is unified on the need to eliminate poppy cultivation, he said, there are many requirements. High among these requirements is the need for water. Not only is Afghanistan facing yet another successive year of drought, but, "The irrigation system has been affected by 23 years of fighting.... Most of the irrigation canals have been destroyed."

The minister continued: "If we can have enough water, if we can have a lot of water resources then this opium can be substituted with other crops which have good production and good yields. But of course one should not rule out the policy of the governments. Our policy is to completely stop the growth of poppy in Afghanistan, and to encourage our farmers to...grow other crops that can give good production. We have to improve the system of our agriculture. We have to provide them with high-yielding seeds, provide them with commercial fertilizers, we have to supply them with water."

Although the administration in Kabul has issued anti-narcotics decrees, there are reports that cultivation has resumed in Kandahar and Nangarhar provinces, and there is concern that local officials may try to profit from this situation due to their previous involvement in narcotics smuggling ("RFE/RL Iran Report," 1 and 29 October and 17 December 2001). Khan Saheb, the son of a narcotics merchant in Herat named Haji Beshir, claimed that the Kandahar governor met with his father and the big narcotics merchants of Helmand, Ghazni, and Kandahar, and he asked for their financial support, London's MBC television reported on 28 January.

When asked about the possible involvement of local officials in the narcotics trade, Irrigation Minister Hussein emphasized, "We have instructed provincial officials to inform the farmers not to cultivate." Yet he is practical, too, saying that farmers cultivate opium mainly because they do not have realistic alternatives, so Kabul needs the international community's help if its counter-narcotics campaign is to succeed. Haji Mangal Hussein: "We are also asking the international community to help these farmers who used to cultivate poppy. To assist them in different ways, so these people are not in need of poppy cultivation, they should have other alternatives, instead of growing poppy, in order to earn more."

Afghanistan may no longer be seen as a home to terrorists. The continued production and smuggling of opium, heroin, and morphine, however, will undermine the country's international standing. The interim administration recognizes how seriously the world community regards this issue. In the words of Irrigation Minister Hussein: "Our demand, and the demand of the international community, is to stop the poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, and we would like this administration to be a credible administration, to be a stronger administration."

But Afghanistan is not ready to go it alone. "We are different than those who ruled Afghanistan in the past. We enjoy the backing of the international community, of the United Nations, the world community. I am quite sure our farmers will no longer be in need of poppy cultivation if we receive different kinds of assistance from the world community," Hussein told the "RFE/RL Iran Report." (Bill Samii)