TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's foreign ministry on Tuesday asked Afghanistan not to sign a security deal with the U.S. that could keep thousands of American and allied forces in its neighboring country for another decade.
The request comes ahead of an expected visit to Iran next week by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has endorsed the deal but introduced new conditions before approving it and deferred its signature to his successor in next April's elections.
Iranian ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said the "Islamic Republic of Iran does not consider the signing and approval of the pact useful for the long term expedience and interests of Afghanistan."
She added that "we think approval and implementation of the deal will have negative effects on the trend of regional issues."
Iran has long opposed the agreement that keeps U.S. forces in its doorstep in neighboring Afghanistan. The two countries have about 945 kilometers (580 miles) of joint borders.
The United States is pressing for Karzai to sign the deal to extend a military presence past 2014, when NATO and United Nations mandates expire and all foreign troops leave the country. The U.S. says the deal will keep forces in Afghanistan to train and mentor the Afghan army and police, while a smaller presence will go after the remnants of al-Qaida.
A national assembly of Afghan dignitaries approved the deal and demanded that Karzai sign it by the end of next month — which is also America's deadline before it starts planning a full withdrawal at the end of 2014. Karzai has so far refused.
Afkham also confirmed reports that Karzai will visit Tehran next week. He last visited Tehran in August to attend the inauguration of President Hassan Rouhani. Kabul has not officially confirmed the trip.