U.S.: Iran Sending Weapons to Taliban


PARIS (AP) - A senior U.S. diplomat accused Iran on Tuesday of transferring
weapons to Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan - the most direct comments yet
on the issue by a ranking American official.

Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, speaking to reporters in Paris, said
Iran was funding insurrections across the Middle East - and "Iran is now
even transferring arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan."

"It's a country that's trying to flex its muscles, but in a way that's
injurious to the interests of just about everybody else in the world," he
said. "I think it's a major miscalculation."

In Afghanistan last week, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Iranian
weapons were falling into the hands of Taliban fighters, but stopped short
of blaming the government itself.

Iran's possible role in aiding insurgents in Iraq has long been hotly
debated, and last month some Western and Persian Gulf governments charged
that the Islamic government in Tehran is also secretly bolstering Taliban

In an interview with The Associated Press on Monday, U.S. Army Gen. Dan
McNeill said Taliban fighters are showing signs of better training, using
combat techniques comparable to "an advanced Western military" in ambushes
of U.S. Special Forces soldiers.

"In Afghanistan it is clear that the Taliban is receiving support, including
arms from ... elements of the Iranian regime," British Prime Minister Tony
Blair wrote in the May 31 edition of the Economist.

Iran, which is also in a dispute with the West over its nuclear program,
denies the Taliban accusation, calling it part of a broad anti-Iranian
campaign. Tehran says it makes no sense that a Shiite-led government like
itself would help the fundamentalist Sunni movement of the Taliban.

Burns also criticized Iran's perceived intransigence over its nuclear
program, which many Western powers fear masks a plan to build weapons -
though Iran says its intentions are to generate energy.

Burns insisted new U.N. Security Council measures were needed "so that the
Iranians don't have business as usual."

"We will have to move forward at the Security Council for a third ...
resolution in a matter of weeks," he said.

The council imposed sanctions on Iran on Dec. 23 for refusing to suspend
uranium enrichment despite U.N. demands, and modestly increased the
sanctions March 24 when Tehran stepped up its enrichment program.

"We believe that beyond (the third resolution), Europe and the Asian
countries and Middle Eastern countries will have to adopt even harsher
sanction measures outside the Security Council," Burns added.

Many have sought new sanctions after the International Atomic Energy
Agency's recent report that Iran's enrichment program was expanding - and
its warning for the first time that its knowledge of Tehran's nuclear
activities was shrinking.

The prospect of council action appeared more likely after a senior Iranian
envoy abruptly canceled talks Monday with the head of the IAEA.