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Iranian President, In Tajik Capital, Warns Of Mideast 'Storm'

Presidents Rakhmonov (left) and Ahmadinejad (center) in Dushanbe on July 25 (RFE/RL) July 25, 2006 -- Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has arrived in Dushanbe and begun talks with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov on bilateral relations and other issues, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports, but the Iranian leader's comments on developments in the Middle East appeared to overshadow his Central Asian agenda.

Ahmadinejad used a brief media appearance on his arrival to describe the situation in the Middle East as a "storm," warning that destruction could follow.

"To attack another country in this way will not solve anything, instead it will make the problems more complicated," Ahmadinejad said, according to RFE/RL's Tajik Service. "Those who think that by oppressing a nation they can create a foothold for themselves are making a big mistake. There is an expression in Persian: He who raises the wind will get a hurricane. And this hurricane is just round the corner in the Middle East, and it will be harsh and destructive for the enemies of humanity."

President Rakhmonov, whose country of more than 6 million is more than 80 percent Muslim, called for an immediate end to the current fighting in the Middle East.

"In our opinion, as a member of the Organization of Islamic Conference and the larger community of Muslims of the world, the destructive armed operations in Lebanon must be stopped as soon as possible and the ensuing problems should be resolved through a political route, taking into consideration the territorial integrity and independence of Lebanon and the prospect of peace and stability in the Middle East," Rakhmonov said.

Ahmadinejad and Rakhmonov signed a joint statement condemning Israel's "use of force against Palestine and Lebanon." The two leaders also urged alll sides to resolve disputes through dialog.

Central Asian Business

Ahmadinejad's decision to follow through on his two-country Central Asian tour amid the continuing Lebanese-Israeli crisis has been regarded by some as a sign of the increasing importance he attaches to relations with Central Asia.

Rakhmonov and Ahmadinejad reportedly agreed to launch a joint Persian-language television station. Officials suggested that Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is scheduled to arrive in Dushanbe for a trilateral meeting on July 26, would offer his support of the project ahead of a final agreement.

The talks in Dushanbe follow Ahmadinejad's two-day visit to Turkmenistan for talks with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, and are widely regarded as part of a broader Iranian effort to increase its influence in Central Asia. Tehran recently suggested it wanted to become a full member of the revived Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), where it currently has observer status.