11TH SEP. (IPS)
The Islamic Republic reacted with the strongest possible of words to the killing of its 10 diplomats and one journalist by the ruling Afghan Taleban, wowing revenge, retaliation, sanctions and whatever measure it would consider appropriate to follow up the "savage, inhuman massacre of innocent people".
As the ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, the leader of the regime declared a 3 days national mourning starting Saturday, president Mohammad Khatami, former president Hashemi Rafsanjani and Majles Speaker Nateq Nouri joined their voices to condemn the killing and denounce the Taleban they described as a bunch of drug smugglers and trouble makers.
"Taleban are a plague for both Afghanistan and the region and we shall follow up the massacre of our innocent people at any cost", promised the ayatollah Khatami who, like Ali Khameneh'i and other clerical rulers, presented his "felicitation and condolences" to the Mahdi (Shi'ates 12th Imam who is to reappear one day), the Muslim people of Iran and the families of the victims.
But the strongest attack came from Mr Rafsanjani who presented the Taleban as "an American-made gang" acting on "Satan's orders" against the Islamic Republic.
"We shall not allow the Americans and the West to plot against us in our borders and in this region we have done our best to keep in peace. Those American puppets whom call themselves Talebans are but a gang of drug smugglers, hooligans and killers who are plotting against us on orders of their American masters. We shall uproot this plague from both our borders and the region", Mr Rafsanjani said during the Friday priers.
The Taleban leader, Mollah Mohammad Omar confirmed Thursday that the 10 Iranian diplomats and one journalists present at the Iranian consulate in Mazare Sharif, the northern Afghan city which felt to the hands of his forces a month ago had been killed by what he named as "renegade" soldiers.
According to a Taleban official spokesman, nine bodies have been discovered in a cemetery in Mazare Sharif and searches are continuing to find the two missing corpses.
He said the killing had occurred without the knowledge of the Taleban's "Amir al Mo'menin" or the Leader of the Learned Ones or senior commanders and promised that the culprits would be punished according to Islamic laws.
But so far, there had been no words of apology from the Taleban.
Highly Informed sources in Tehran told the IPS that the clerical leadership is sharply divided on the question of what to do with the Taleban.
He said while the ayatollah Khameneh'i whom many observers considers as being the main "source" of Iranian "debacle" in Afghanistan and his entourage are considering an outright military operation against the Taleban, Khatami and Rafsanjani favours a less radical approach, looking to diplomatic measures instead.
Afghan leaders present in Tehran, including former president Rabbani, Golboddin Hekmatyar of Hezb e Eslami and the Uzbek general Rashid Dostom, were also consulted.
Analysts speculated however that despite the sharp tongued communiques and statements by the leadership and other officials, Tehran would avoid a military operation inside Afghanistan.
"Probably, the government of Mr Khatami will do its best to bring the international community to its side in the one hand and to apply the maximum of military and diplomatic pressures on the Taleban on the other", the analyst says.
The government, the Foreign Ministry and the Revolutionary Guards also issued communiqués slamming the Taleban and calling for revenge, but staying short of expelling out what kind of retaliation they were seeking.
Mr Khatami and Rafsanjani, as well as professor Borhaneddin Rabbani, the Afghan president who was ousted by the Taleban spoke of "genocide and ethnic cleansing" in Afghanistan at the hands of the Taleban.
These claims had been confirmed by international rights organisations, including the Amnesty International.
Iran also reiterated its accusations against Pakistan, reminding once again that Islamabad had promised to look after the safeguard of Iranian diplomats in Mazare Sharif.
Pakistan rejected these claims but presented its regrets over the assassination of Iranian diplomats.
On Thursday, a senior Iranian Minister accused publicly Pakistani intelligence officers to have taken the Taleban soldiers to the Iranian consulate in Mazare Sharif, thus dealing a new blow to the severely damaged relations between Iran and Pakistan.
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