U.S. `misused' attacks of 9/11, Iran leader says

Visiting Kabul, Khatami warns of possible backfire

August 14, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

KABUL, Afghanistan - President Mohammed Khatami of Iran struck out at President Bush and other senior American officials today during a visit to Afghanistan, saying they had "misused" the Sept. 11 attacks "to create an atmosphere of violence and war."

During the first visit in 40 years by an Iranian head of state to Afghanistan, Iran's eastern neighbor, Khatami warned that American leaders in widening their war on terrorism could unleash a chain reaction that would engulf countries other than the intended targets in a new round of violence. He implied, without saying so explicitly, that the United States itself could be among the victims.

"The events of Sept. 11 were horrific, but the American leaders misused them, too," the Iranian leader said at a news conference in the old royal palace here that followed talks with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai. "They did it because they wanted to create an atmosphere of violence and war in the world, but we know with certainty that in today's world all our fates are linked."

Khatami continued: "It's obvious that if you attack somewhere, it will reverberate elsewhere as well. Those who plan to launch this war shouldn't think that the effects will be felt only where they attack.

"In today's world, violence and oppression will only foster more violence. To believe that you can make people submit by force is wrong. We know that this approach only brings anger and destruction."

The Iranian leader's remarks turned a visit intended to focus on Iran's backing for Karzai's new Afghan government, chosen by Afghan leaders two months ago, into a forum for airing Iran's bitter differences with the country that is the Karzai government's indispensable ally, the United States.

Karzai, seated beside Khatami at the news conference, remained studiously neutral, saying Afghanistan sought good relations with both Iran and the United States.

The political cross-currents were all the more striking for the fact that American Special Forces soldiers cradling automatic rifles, and with American flags stitched to their baseball caps and shirtsleeves, oversaw security for the visit from the moment Khatami's aircraft touched down at Kabul airport until he left for Tehran.

When he berated the United States in what was once the Afghan king's audience chamber in the palace, the Iranian leader was only feet away from an American bodyguard, with at least a dozen more Americans providing security outside.

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