The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Wary Iran knocks on Delhi door

New Delhi, March 21: Next in line in America’s gunsight, Iran has begun fretting about developments and the likely fallout of the US-initiated war on Iraq.

Taking the first step towards shoring up international support, Ali Akbar Velayati, the special envoy of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, arrived here for consultations with Indian leaders.

Velayati met Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and delivered a personal letter from Khatami. Though the details of the letter were not divulged, the Iranian envoy discussed developments in Iraq both with Vajpayee and foreign minister Yashwant Sinha, who he met earlier in the day.

Having identified Iran — one of the three poles in America’s “axis of evil” along with Iraq and North Korea — as one of the hostile nations, the US will have to deal with it one way or the other in the near future.

The American leadership has made it clear that it would not want any of the “rogue states” to have access to weapons of mass destruction.

Two of Iran’s nuclear reactors, built with Russian help, are likely to reach the “critical” stage sometime next year. With Iran definitely fitting into the US description of a “rogue” state, one of the main concerns for the leadership in Tehran is whether the George W. Bush administration would make it the next target.

Iran is worried whether the US will maintain Iraq’s territorial integrity once the war is over, or whether it will carve it into three separate regions as some have speculated.

If the latter happens, it would cause major problems for the Iranian leadership as this could lead to clashes between the Shia and Sunni community in Iraq. Iran has been nurturing several Iraqi Shia leaders over the past few years in the hope that if the Saddam Hussein regime is replaced, these leaders would take care of its interests.

Velayati’s meeting with Indian leaders is an attempt by Iran to exchange views with its “friends” and apprise them of Tehran’s concerns and, if possible, to convince them to take necessary steps to ensure that Iran does not get isolated in the international field.

Signalling its growing ties with Iran and in an acceptance of Tehran’s re-emergence as a major world player, India had invited Khatami as the chief guest for this year’s Republic Day celebrations.

Khatami’s visit — the first by an Iranian President in seven years — gave the two sides an opportunity to strengthen and deepen their bilateral relations in the political, economic as well as cultural fields.

The upswing in Indo-Iranian ties began in April 2001 when Vajpayee visited Iran and the two sides signed the Tehran Declaration.

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