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Afghan President in Iran but nuclear off agenda

Hamid Karzai began a two-day trip to neighbouring Iran seeking investment for his war-shattered nation.

india Updated: May 27, 2006 23:08 IST

Afghan President Hamid Karzai began a two-day trip to neighbouring Iran on Saturday to meet the Islamic republic's top leaders and to seek investment for his war-shattered nation.

But as he arrived, Iran angrily dismissed suggestions that Afghanistan might play a mediating role in Tehran's standoff with the West over its nuclear programme.

Karzai, accompanied by senior members of his government, met Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and will also see the country's supreme leader Ali Khamenei and other officials, his office said.

"We must develop relations in every field," Ahmadinejad said as he welcomed Karzai.

He also expressed the wish that Afghans living in Iran return home "to put their experience to the service of Afghanistan".

About a million Afghans live in Iran, working mainly in construction and agriculture.

Karzai said that since the fall of the Taliban, "relations between the two countries have developed greatly, and our Iranian brothers have played an active and important role in the economic and political reconstruction of Afghanistan".

The Afghan people will "never forget the help provided by Iran", Karzai added.

"Iranian exports to Afghanistan have risen from several million dollars four years ago to 500 million dollars today," he said.

While in Tehran, Karzai is expected to sign several agreements, including on the exchange of prisoners, investment and a cross-border rail link between Khaf and Herat.