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Afghans protest Iran fuel blockade

A protracted fuel blockade by Iran sparked protests in Afghanistan for the second day in a row Sunday as tensions rose between the Islamic neighbours, who share a long border and a complicated history.

world Updated: Jan 18, 2011 00:43 IST

A protracted fuel blockade by Iran sparked protests in Afghanistan for the second day in a row Sunday as tensions rose between the Islamic neighbours, who share a long border and a complicated history.

Afghan demonstrators in the western border city of Herat threw eggs and stones at the Iranian consulate, protesting the six-week border blockade of fuel tankers passing through Iran that has caused prices of gasoline and winter heating fuel to rise between 35 and 60 percent across the country.

Afghanistan's commerce minister, Anwar ul-Haq Ahady, said at a news conference in the capital Sunday that the government was "not happy" with Iran, marking the first public criticism of the actions by Afghan officials. He said the Afghan government had not received any plausible explanation for the blockade, which has left up to 2,000 fuel trucks stranded on the border. "Whatever reason they have given is not acceptable to us," Ahady said.

Iranian officials said they were stopping because the government suspects the product ends up with NATO in Afghanistan. "We have news that fuel transited through Iran is handed over to NATO forces. We are extremely worried about this," Fada Hossein Maleki, Iran's ambassador to Afghanistan, told the official Islamic Republic News Agency on Jan. 5.

"We will provide fuel for the people, but no one has the right to give it to the military of a country who will use it against the interests of the nations of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan," he said.

NATO officials here have repeatedly denied that the fuel was being sold to US.

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