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Report: Iran Hosting Taliban Leaders at Islamic Unity Conference

Iran is publicly hosting leaders of the Afghan Taliban movement at an ongoing conference on Islamic unity in Tehran, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya reported on Wednesday.

Iranian Ayatollah Mohsen Araki, head of the World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought, told reporters on Tuesday that an invitation was extended to the Taliban, which he described as moderate, to attend the two-day International Islamic Unity Conference.

Araki said that “the invitation was sent to some Islamic and political figures in the Taliban movement who believe in the unity of Muslims,” Al-Arabiya wrote, citing Iran’s Mehr News Agency. “Iran has always held contacts with some parties in the Taliban movement, who believe in the Islamic unity,” he added.

The Islamic unity conference kicked off in the Iranian capital on Thursday and has included calls by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, also sometimes described as a moderate, for Muslims to identify Israel’s “Zionist regime” as their “biggest enemy,” Iran’s state-owned Press TV reported. He added that sectarian wars in Islamic communities were orchestrated by Western powers and the Zionists.

Araki’s announcement comes shortly after Afghan lawmakers voiced concerns abut Iran’s ties with the Taliban. “Evidence of Russian and Iranian cooperation with the Taliban has been found,” Fazal Hadi Muslimyar, the chairman of the Afghan Senate, said last week. He called indications of foreign support for the Taliban “worrisome,” Voice of America reported.

Muslimyar comments followed U.S. Gen. John Nicholson’s warning on December 2 that Russian and Iranian support for the Taliban was “not advancing the cause of stability in the region.”

Afghan officials have previously accused Iran of sheltering Taliban fighters in cross-border areas. “Families of a number of high ranking Taliban leaders reside in Iran,” Asif Nang, the governor of Afghanistan’s western Farah province, recently told Radio Liberty. “They live in cities such as Yazd, Kerman, and Mashhad, and come back to Afghanistan for subversive activities.”

While Iran denies that it supports Taliban, The Wall Street Journal reported in June 2015 that according to Afghan and Western officials, “Tehran has quietly increased its supply of weapons, ammunition and funding to the Taliban, and is now recruiting and training their fighters, posing a new threat to Afghanistan’s fragile security.”

[Photo: Journeyman Pictures / YouTube ]