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Iran arming Taliban, U.S. claims

Story Highlights

• U.S. has "irrefutable evidence" Iran is arming Taliban, top diplomat claims
• NATO forces have intercepted Iranian-made arms shipments, officials say
• Burns says Iranian actions are in violation of its Security Council commitments
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PARIS, France (CNN) -- The United States has "irrefutable evidence" that Tehran is transferring arms to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, a top U.S. diplomat told CNN Wednesday, noting that NATO forces have intercepted some of the arms shipments.

"There's irrefutable evidence the Iranians are now doing this and it's a pattern of activity," U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told CNN.

"If you see the Iranians arming Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank and, of course, arming Shia militants inside Iraq itself. It's very violent and very unproductive activity by the Iranian government."

And one that puts Tehran contrary to the U.N. Security Council, Burns said.

"Iran is operating against the last Security Council Resolution 1747, passed on March 24, which said that Iran must not transfer arms outside of Iran, and here it is doing it in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Afghanistan, and in Iraq, so Iran is in outright violation of its Security Council commitments," according to Burns.

In late May, U.S. and British officials simply said that weapons crossing the border from Iran to Afghanistan may be winding up in the hands of the Taliban, the hard-line Islamic militia that is battling U.S.- and NATO-led forces in Afghanistan.

Wednesday's accusations took the case against Tehran to the next level.

"It's certainly coming from the government of Iran. It's coming from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard corps command, which is a basic unit of the Iranian government," Burns said.

Previously, coalition officials in Afghanistan said some Iranian-made AK-47s, C-4 plastic explosives and mortars had been intercepted, and a NATO official said they had found one explosively-formed penetrator bomb (EFP) that can pierce American armor.

The EFP is similar to the weaponry the United States says that Iran has provided to militants in Iraq, but the NATO official said that the weapon has not been traced directly to the Iranian regime.

Some analysts question whether the top echelons of the Iranian government are behind any transfer of arms from the Islamic Republic to the Taliban, Iran's long-time foe, suggesting that rogue elements -- perhaps the Quds force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard -- may be operating on their own.

But a U.S. official who requested anonymity told CNN last month that the United States believes that Iran's supreme leaders certainly know about these operations and could stop them if they wanted to.

Both U.S. officials and outside analysts said that any malicious intentions on Iran's part would only be directed at the United States. The majority-Shiite Iran would not, they said, want the Taliban to gain too much strength. The Taliban are virulently anti-Shiite.

One analyst called it a game of "managed chaos," just enough to bloody America's nose in Afghanistan.

A man speaks to a soldier as part of a hunt for Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan's Ghazni Province this week.




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