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IRAN: Germans in talks with Tehran for Afghanistan support, says report

April 2, 2009 |  9:58 am
Iran's official news agency is reporting that German contractors are in talks with Iranians to use the Islamic Republic's territory to ship supplies to North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops in Afghanistan.  

“The German sides negotiating with Iran are representatives of private firms that provide foodstuff and fuel for the German forces serving at NATO units in Afghanistan," said an unnamed German military official quoted by the Islamic Republic News Agency's Berlin bureau. “These companies are after finding alternative routes from Pakistan to forward those goods to Afghanistan.”

The sourcing is sketchy, but there have been mutterings about such talks in the German media  for days. Perhaps more important, the report by IRNA suggests Iran wants, or at least is eager to give the impression that it wants, to be helpful to the American-led war in Afghanistan. 
Drugs and violence rooted in Afghanistan's chaos have dramatically affected neighboring Iran. 

The Obama administration is attempting to seek Iran's cooperation on Afghanistan in order to help defeat the Taliban and build trust with the Islamic Republic in order to resolve other long-standing issues, including the dispute over the nature of Iran's nuclear program.

Iranian and U.S. officials exchanged formalities at a conference this week in Holland.

Today's IRNA report said the talks are taking place between Iran and private German firms. But the government in Berlin is monitoring them. 

If a deal is made, Iran would serve as a transit point for supplies for the NATO operation in Afghanistan.

NATO has long eyed the route between Iran's Gulf of Oman port of Chabahar and Afghanistan as an alternative to funneling in supplies via Pakistan, which is also facing a violent Taliban insurgency.

The German media has reported that the talks involved the transit of food and fuel to NATO forces, not military equipment.

-- Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Photo: Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, in a picture release by Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs,  shakes hands with Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Mehdi Akhondzade in The Hague, Netherlands, last month. Credit: Cynthia  Boll / Associated Press