Ahmadeinejad Denounces U.S. In Afghanistan

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad paid a visit to Kabul Wednesday and denounced the U.S. for "playing a double game" in Afghanistan. He was responding to remarks by Defense Secretary Robert Gates who left the city earlier in the day.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

And we begin this hour in Afghanistan. In a moment, we'll hear a pair of reports from the south of the country about a new vehicle that's protecting troops from IEDs and about efforts there to target powerful drug traffickers.

But we begin in the capital, Kabul, and a visit from Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It was his first trip to the country since his reelection. At a joint news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Ahmadinejad criticized the U.S. and predicted its efforts in Afghanistan would fail.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in Kabul, and she has this story.

President MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD (Iran): (Foreign language spoken)

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: The Iranian president accused the United States of playing a, quote, "double game" saying Americans were fighting the very terrorists they helped create many years ago to fight the Soviets. "Double game" was the same phrase U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates had used earlier this week during his visit here when he accused Iran of claiming to want a good relationship with the Afghan government while helping the Taliban. When asked by a reporter about the visit by Mr. Gates, Ahmadinejad replied, Mr. Who? He then proceeded to scold the defense secretary, who had left Kabul a short while before.

Pres. AHMADINEJAD: (Through translator) What are you even doing here in this region? This is a serious question. You claim you are here to get terrorists. But if you are here for something else, then be brave and admit it.

NELSON: He added that using intelligence, not troops, is what will ultimately defeat insurgents. While Iran shares the U.S. view of the Taliban as an enemy, it is equally suspicious of the American military presence in Afghanistan with which the Islamic republic shares a lengthy border. But the main reason for the recent verbal sparring between Ahmadinejad and U.S. officials never came up. That being Iran's refusal to rein in its controversial nuclear program and the resulting US-led efforts to tighten sanctions against it. Nor did the fact that Ahmadinejad's visit planned for Monday had been awkwardly postponed because Gates was arriving in Afghanistan the same day.

President HAMID KARZAI (Afghanistan): (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: Instead, Afghan President Hamid Karzai gushed that Afghans were lucky to have Ahmadinejad visiting. He lauded Iran for taking in millions of Afghan refugees during the Soviet occupation and Taliban years and for providing aid for development and education.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Kabul.

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