PRAGUE, May 28, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- After meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, on May 27, President Karzai thanked Iran for the support in the past difficult years and especially for accepting Afghan refugees.
"We will never forget Iran's goodwill in accepting our refugees in the past 20 years and Iran's cooperation with Afghanistan in the past four years," Karzai said. "Afghanistan hopes to strengthen further trade and economic ties between the two countries."
Karzai said that Iranian exports to Afghanistan have risen from several million dollars four years ago to $500 million now.
Ahmadinejad also said the two countries have good potential to deepen their cooperation.
"As he [Karzai] said, [Afghanistan and Iran] both are big countries, and there are a lot of opportunities for cooperation in all fields - industry, agriculture and culture, transport, science, new technologies, education and culture, and any other field that the two countries choose to," Ahmadinejad said. "It is a good opportunity for mutual cooperation between the two countries."
Paying Tribute To Khomeini
Karzai visited the tomb of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in Tehran today. Karzai said that Khomeini was a good friend of Afghan people during their fight against the Soviet invasion.
"During the very difficult times for the Afghan people he was a friend and supporter of the Afghan people. He was participant of the Afghan jihad; he helped the Afghan people, accepted Afghan refugees, and he prayed for the people of Afghanistan. We will not forget that. His memory will be alive eternally in the minds of Afghan people."
However, there seems to be little Karzai can do about the Iranian standoff with the West on Tehran's nuclear program. As Karzai arrived, Iran angrily dismissed suggestions that Afghanistan, which has close ties with the United States, might play a mediating role.
Afghanistan has a close relationship with the United States. There are about 22,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, helping to fight a mounting insurgency there.
Economic sanctions could further undermine Iran's already shaky economy (Fars)
MOVING TOWARD SANCTIONS: If the United Nations Security Council imposes sanctions on Iran, domestic support for Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad will wane, according to ALEX VATANKA, Eurasia editor for Jane's Information Group.
Vatanka told a February 24 RFE/RL briefing that "economic sanctions will hurt the average Iranian" and, consequently, many "will blame the ruling clerics" for making life difficult and "impairing the country's long term development."
Vatanka said sanctions would be a serious challenge to the Iranian government. If harsh economic sanctions were imposed, Iran's poorest population will be hurt the hardest -- and might react "as they did in the 1970s and protest in the streets." Sanctions on travel, Vatanka said, would hurt a many Iranians because "Iran is a nation of small traders" who depend on the ability to travel to earn an income. According to Vatanka, unemployment in Iran is estimated at 30 percent, "so small trading is essential to survival." Although current U.S. sanctions "haven't worked," he said, "Iranians fear an oil embargo." He stressed that "oil revenues are a major part of the economy, so it is critical to look at this sector."
Should negotiations with the European Union and the UN fail, Vatanka believes that Iran would follow a "North Korea model," since Ahmadinejad's base of support among the "Islamist militias" has been "urging withdrawal from the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty]." The Iranian government's "tactic" so far, Vatanka said, is governed by the belief that "by shouting the loudest, you'll get concessions [from the West]."
Listen to the complete panel discussion (about 60 minutes):
THE COMPLETE STORY: RFE/RL's coverage of the controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.
CHRONOLOGY An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.