H.E. President Karzai makes maiden presidential visit to Iran

Kabul, January 26, 2005 – H.E. President Hamid Karzai flew to Tehran Wednesday for talks with Iranian leaders, his maiden official trip since inauguration as Afghanistan's first democratically elected president, a spokesman said.

H.E. the President was to hold talks with H.E. Iranian President Mohammad Khatami during the two-day visit, which was to end with the inauguration of new infrastructure projects at the countries' common border, spokesman Rafiullah Mujaddedi said.

Mujaddedi said he didn't know if H.E. President Karzai and H.E. President Khatami would discuss reports that the American military, which has thousands of troops in Afghanistan, has conducted spying operations inside Iran since last summer.

Iran is a vital partner for Afghanistan as it emerges from more than 20 years of fighting. H.E. President Karzai has vowed to revive historic trade routes to drum up customs revenues and build relationships with neighbors who sponsored unrest in Afghanistan in the past.

H.E. President Karzai was accompanied by several ministers from the new Afghan government installed earlier this month following the U.S.-backed leader's triumph in October elections, the first national vote since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

H.E. President Karzai and H.E. President Khatemi were to travel on Thursday to Islam Qala, an Afghan border town, to inaugurate a road to Herat, which has been repaired with US$60 million (€46 million) from Iran, and a new transmission line to deliver Iranian power to Afghanistan's main western city.