IRAN PAKISTAN RELATIONS GO NOSE DOWN OVER TALEBAN

PARIS 25TH AUG. (IPS) With the Islamic Republic of Iran rejecting as "unacceptable and unconvincing" Pakistan's attitude concerning the whereabouts of 10 Iranian diplomats and a journalist who went missing in Mazare Sharif when the Taleban captured the northern city 20 days ago, relations between Tehran and Islam-Abad suffered a new blow.

Iran claimed Monday that it had placed the guaranty for the lives of its diplomats and the security of its consulate in Mazare Sharif in the hand of Pakistan before the capture of the city by the Taleban and now it is Pakistan's duty to explain why the Taleban have not responded to their engagement in not attacking the diplomatic premises.

This was disclosed by the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mr Kamal Kharrazi during his meeting with Mr Mohammad Sadiq Kanju, a Pakistani State Minister for International Affairs who came to Tehran to explain Pakistan's position on Afghanistan and its support for the Taleban.

Mr Kharrazi said afterward that Mr Kanju's explanation concerning Pakistan's effort to secure the release of the Iranians were "not acceptable" and both the "Iranian government and people seek their immediate release".

However, he did not said whether Islam-Abad had accepted the Iranian demand to look after the safety of its consulate in Mazare Sharif, or if the Taleban had made any promise to the Pakistanis about the Iranians they brand as spies.

Islam-Abad rejects Iranian claims, saying it is ready to help and assist the Iranians in their search for the missing men.

The Taleban who control most of Afghanistan insist that they have no information about the Iranians, adding that when they entered the Iranian consulate in Mazare Sharif, it was already empty.

Iran for its part claims that its diplomats and the journalist are in the hands of the Taleban and hold Pakistan responsible for their lives.

Senior Taleban officials, including their Amir al Mo'menin, or spiritual leader have hinted that the men may have been either killed or fled the city alongside the Iranian-backed anti-Taleban forces.

Despite the fact that the Taleban control more than 90 per cent of Afghan territory, Iran brand them as a "renegade, illegal group" supported by Pakistan and the United States.

For their part, the Taleban considers Iranian Shi'a as "heretics not accepted as Muslim by true Muslims" and accuse the ruling mollahs for imposing their brand of Islam on the whole world.

Despaired of Pakistan and pressed by the public opinion, Iran had established direct telephone contact with the Taleban to examine the fate of its citizen.

"During the conversation, the Taleban official confirmed that they know nothing about the whereabouts of the 10 diplomats and one journalist", said Mr Ala'eddin Brojerdi, the Iranian Special Representative for Afghanistan, the man the Taleban present as being responsible for the tension between Tehran and Kabul.

Iran has times and again warned the Taleban about its abducted citizen and for their part, the "students in Islamic theology' have told Iran they will "smash them in the mouth".

An Iranian diplomatic source said Mr Kanju's explanations on Pakistan's reasons for backing the Taleban was received "negatively" by Tehran.

In fact, the Iranian clerical authorities are angry at the stinging diplomatic defeat they suffered at the hands of the Pakistanis they considered as one of their most trusted neighbours.

By pushing the die hard Taleban islamist to new victories over forces supported by Shi'a Iran, Pakistan has secured a virtual control over Afghanistan thus undermining Iranian influence among Muslim nations in the region in the one hand and securing the place of Afghanistan as transit route for pipe lines carrying Central Asian gas and oil to the Indian Ocean via Pakistan.

Tehran is also angry at the fact that its diplomacy is very isolated in region, since it has been kept at bey by other concerned Central Asia nations such as Uzbakestan and Tajikestan when they met with Russian officials to review the situation in Afghanistan.

Informed sources in Tehran told IPS that the ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i must be balmed for the debacle of the Iranian diplomacy in Afghanistan as he always directed the Foreign Ministry and the revolutionary guards to back only the Afghan Sh'i minority.

Kanju, who visited also Tashkent and Dushanbeh, was the highest official Islam-Abad dispatched to Iran, Uzbakestan and Tajikestan in order to appease their fear from the Taleban's recent victory in Northern region of Afghanistan.

"Pakistan believe that Taleban are the most powerful organisation in Afghanistan and wanted to convince its neighbours to accept the fait accompli. Mr Kanju's mission is to tell others that the Taleban are to remain in Afghanistan and one has to accept them. This not acceptable to us" commented an Iranian diplomat. ENDS 2589818