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Iran: Middle East Overshadows President's Central Asia Agenda

DUSHANBE, July 25, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Iranian President Ahmadinejad has cautioned against further violence in the Middle East, saying the conflict between Israel and the Tehran-backed Hizballah militant group could trigger a "storm" in the region.

Ahmadinejad made the comment upon arriving in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, from nearby Turkmenistan on July 25 for two days of talks on bilateral relations and other regional issues.

Raising The Wind

"To attack another country in this way will not solve anything," Ahmadinejad said, referring to Israeli's ground and air assault against Hizballah militants in Lebanon. "Instead it will make the [existing] problems [even] more complicated. There is an expression in Persian that says that 'He who raises the wind will get a hurricane.' This hurricane is just round the corner in the Middle East, and it will be harsh and destructive for the enemies of humanity."

Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov stressed the need to respect Lebanon's territorial integrity and improve stability in the region.

"As a member of the Organization of Islamic Conference and the larger community of Muslims in the world, we believe the destructive armed operations in Lebanon must be stopped as soon as possible and the ensuing problems should be resolved through a political route," Rakhmonov said.

The leaders signed a joint statement condemning Israel's "use of force against Palestine and Lebanon." They also urged all sides to resolve their disputes through dialogue.

Putin On The Line

Russia's Interfax news agency reports that Ahmadinejad on July 25 discussed the Middle East crisis by telephone with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Today, the Avesta news agency quoted Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov as urging Israel to put an end to what he called "a real war that has already killed more than 400 peaceful Lebanese residents."

"No one needs this war," Nazarov said. "In any case, the Arabs don't need it. We're being told to wait. But there will be another 400 victims!"

Echoing Nazarov's comments, Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, the speaker of the Iranian Majlis (parliament) on July 25 blamed the Arab countries' "idleness" and called upon them to show their support to the Lebanese and Palestinians.

Iran's Mehr news agency quoted Haddad-Adel as saying at a meeting with the Libyan ambassador to Tehran that "the Islamic world should not leave the oppressed Lebanese people alone at this sensitive and historic juncture."

Sticking To The Agenda

Ahmadinejad is in Tajikistan on a visit that was expected to focus on bilateral economic cooperation and relations with neighboring Afghanistan.

His decision to follow through on his regional tour amid the continuing Lebanese-Israeli crisis has been regarded by some as a sign of the increasing importance he attaches to relations with Central Asia.

Stopping By Turkmenistan

The Iranian president arrived in Dushanbe following a July 24-25 visit to Turkmenistan.

The Mehr news agency reports Ahmadinejad and the ministers who travel with him signed seven bilateral cooperation agreements in Ashgabat, including a memorandum of understanding on security cooperation. Ahmadinejad also inaugurated an Iranian trade fair in Ashgabat and discussed purchasing more natural gas from Turkmenistan.

A preliminary agreement signed in April said the volume of Turkmen gas exports to Iran would increase to 14 billion cubic meters in 2007, up from a current 8 billion cubic meters. But no final deal has been reached yet.

In Tajikistan, Ahmadinejad and Rakhmonov today inaugurated the Iranian-funded Anzob tunnel on the highway that links Dushanbe to the northern city of Khojand.

On July 25, members of the Iranian and Tajik delegations signed a number of cooperation agreements, including one on the construction of another tunnel in the country's south.

RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports that the Iranian and Tajik leaders also agreed to launch a joint Persian-language television station.

Officials in Dushanbe have suggested that Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is scheduled to arrive in Dushanbe for a trilateral meeting later today, would offer his support of the project ahead of a final agreement.

(RFE/RL Tajik Service correspondent Rahmatkarimi Davlat contributed to this report.)

MORE: To read coverage of the Dushanbe summit from RFE/RL's Tajik Service, click here.

Copyright (c) 2006 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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