Iran wants Afghan coalition with no Taliban
By Rosalind Russell
DUSHANBE, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi issued a fresh call on Friday for the creation of an ethnically-mixed coalition government in Afghanistan, with no place for the current ruling Taliban.
Afghanistan's leaders are reviled in neighbouring Iran as giving Islam a bad name, but Kharrazi also reiterated Iran's opposition to U.S.-led air strikes on the Taliban and voiced concerns about civilian casualties.
"The future of Afghanistan can only be one with a coalition government," Kharrazi told reporters in Dushanbe, the capital of ex-Soviet Tajikistan, Afghanistan's northern neighbour.
"We don't see any place for the Taliban, but we see all the ethnic groups of Afghanistan in the coalition."
The United States and Pakistan said this week a future postwar coalition should include "moderate" elements from the Taliban as well as the opposition Northern Alliance. The Taliban is made up mainly of Pashtuns, Afghanistan's biggest ethnic group, and the Alliance mainly of Tajiks, Uzbeks and others.
Tehran also wants a roled for Afghanistan's Shi'ite Muslim Hazara minority, ethnically and culturally close to Iranians. It says they have suffered systematic persecution at the hands of the Taliban.
Iran's distaste for the fundamentalist Sunni Muslim Taliban has raised expectations of a thaw in relations between Tehran and Washington after 22 years of hostility.
Iran condemned last month's suicide attacks in the United States, but opposes the U.S.-led retaliatory strikes on the Taliban, protector of Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks.
"Our position is quite clear that (the strikes are) not acceptable," Kharrazi said, after holding talks with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmanov. "We are very concerned about the civilian casualties of this operation."
Tehran said this week it would cooperate with the United States if any U.S. plane crashes inside Iran during military operations in Afghanistan.
Kharrazi said he held discussions with Rakhmanov on the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, but did not give details.
The United Nations has called on Afghanistan's neighbours to allow refugees to cross the borders, but Iran, Tajikistan and Pakistan to the south have so far refused.
An official of the International Red Cross said on Thursday Iran had agreed to set up refugee camps in the no man's land on its border with Afghanistan.
Emergencies ministers from Russia and former Soviet Central Asian states also met in Dushanbe on Friday to discuss the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.
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