Terrorism is expanding and threatening more than ever: Karzai
Terrorists have no religion: Zardari
September 11 is very much like the Holocaust: Ahmadinejad
TEHRAN - The leaders of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan agreed on Saturday to join forces in combating militancy as they attended a counter-terrorism summit.
The joint statement by the three neighboring presidents followed an announcement by US President Barack Obama that Washington will withdraw 33,000 of its 99,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of next summer. "All sides stressed their commitment to efforts aimed at eliminating extremism, militancy, terrorism, as well as rejecting foreign interference, which is in blatant opposition to the spirit of Islam, the peaceful cultural traditions of the region and its peoples' interests," the statement said. They agreed to continue meetings at ministerial level ahead of the next summit in Islamabad before the end of 2011, added the statement carried by Iran's official IRNA news agency.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Iranian and Pakistani counterparts Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Asif Ali Zardari held three-way talks on Friday ahead of Saturday's six-nation counter-terrorism gathering.
The three leaders discussed "ways of battling terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking," IRNA said.
Speaking at the opening session of the two-day summit, Karzai said that despite his government's efforts, militancy was rising across the region.
"Unfortunately, despite all the achievements in the fields of education, infrastructure and reconstruction, not only has Afghanistan not yet achieved peace and security, but terrorism is expanding and threatening more than ever Afghanistan and the region," Karzai said.
"Terrorists violate both human and divine values by inflicting death and destruction on fellow human beings. They have no religion," Pakistan's president said.
Zardari said attacks had resulted in the deaths of 35,000 people in Pakistan, 5,000 of them law enforcement personnel, and material damage totaling $67 billion.
In his speech, Ahmadinejad again accused Iran's arch-foe the United States of using the September 11, 2001 attacks as a "pretext" to send troops to the region.
"In light of the way it was approached and exploited, September 11 is very much like the Holocaust," Ahmadinejad charged.
"The American government used the attacks as a pretext to occupy two countries, and kill, injure and displace people in the region.
"If the black box of the Holocaust and September 11 is opened, many of the realities will come to light. But unfortunately despite worldwide demand, the American government has not allowed it."
Ahmadinejad has repeatedly courted controversy by questioning the accepted version of both the September 11 attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people, and the Holocaust.
He has dubbed 9/11 a "big lie" and a "suspect affair" similar to the Nazi Holocaust, which he dismissed as a "myth" after coming to power in 2005, triggering international outrage.
In a message to the counter-terrorism conference, which was also attended by the leaders of Iraq, Sudan and Tajikistan, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke out against what called Western abuse of the terrorist threat.
"The diabolical calculation of the dominating powers is to exploit terrorism as a tool to gain their illegitimate aims and they have used it in their plans," he said in the message which was read to the conference.
"In their view, terrorism is whatever threatens their interests. They consider those who are fighting for their legitimate right against occupiers as terrorists but do not consider their mercenaries and malicious groups who harm innocent people as terrorists."
At a meeting with Karzai, Khamenei said security will not prevail as long as US troops are in the region.
"The Americans seek permanent bases in Afghanistan. This is a dangerous issue because as long as American troops are present in Afghanistan, real security will not prevail," he said in remarks carried by IRNA. (AFP)