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Iran Acknowledges 'Assistance' To Kabul


President Hamid Karzai's chief of staff, Umer Daudzai, is at the center of the reported payments, which "The New York Times" said were to "buy the loyalty of Mr. Daudzai and promote Iran's interest in the presidential palace."
One day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai confirmed reports that his office received "bags of money" from Iran, Tehran has acknowledged giving "assistance" to Kabul.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told a news conference that his country had been assisting Afghanistan in reconstruction efforts out of "deep concern" for its neighbor's stability.

Mehmanparast did not elaborate on the form of the assistance.

"This kind of pressure will not have any impact on the will of our nation to pursue its rights," Mehmanparast said. " We have demonstrated in the past 32 years that for the progress of our country and for accessing our rights, we do not surrender to this kind of unjust, unfair, and illogical pressure on the way and we advise if Western countries want to move toward a world where people live under better conditions, they have to stop their unfair and discriminatory actions."

The payments were first revealed in a "New York Times" report over the weekend that alleged that Karzai's office has received some $6 million in such off-the-books contributions.

The paper quoted unnamed sources as saying the cash amounted to a slush fund that Karzai and an aide, Umer Daudzai, used to pay Afghan lawmakers, tribal elders, and even Taliban commanders, to secure their loyalty.

The report prompted an acknowledgement from Karzai on October 25 that chief of staff Daudzai had received sometimes as much as 700,000 euros ($980,000) at a time from Iran.

Karzai said that some of the money had come stuffed in bags. But he denied the payments were secret, describing them as transparent and aimed at helping cover official presidential expenses.

He said Afghanistan would continue to ask for cash help from Iran, adding that the United States, he said, makes similar payments.

"Afghanistan is a country that knows its business well, and we are grateful to Iran for the help that they are giving and Daudzai is receiving that help under my instruction," Karzai said.

Karzai has reportedly suggested that Washington leaked information about the Iranian payments due to unhappiness over a presidential decree ordering a halt to Afghan operations by foreign private security firms.

U.S. military and NATO officials have in the past accused Tehran of providing training and weapons to antigovernment militants in neighboring Afghanistan.

compiled from agency reports