Afghanistan says Iran blocking fuel trucks
* Deputy commerce minister says 1,600 fuel tankers barred from crossing border
* Customs officials say 3,000 trucks stranded
KABUL: Iran is preventing hundreds of fuel tankers from crossing into Afghanistan and supplying US-led NATO troops fighting the Taliban, senior officials in Kabul said Wednesday.
Around 1,600 trucks have been prevented from crossing for three weeks and the situation threatens to push up fuel prices, which have already skyrocketed in recent days, at the start of winter. Although Kabul says the tankers would be used to supply ordinary Afghans, deputy commerce minister Mohammad Sharif Sharifi told AFP that Iranian officials were sceptical.
“I confirm that Iranian officials have been preventing around 1,600 fuel tankers from crossing into Afghanistan for 20 days,” he said. “They (Iran) have not officially given us any reason for this blockade but in a meeting that I had with the Iranian commerce attache in Kabul, he said that the Iranian government believes these tankers were going to supply foreign troops in Afghanistan.” Sharifi added that unless the situation was resolved, it could cause “serious problems including an increase in fuel prices.”
The blockades have occurred at a number of locations, including the main Afghan-Iranian border crossing at Islam Qalah in the western province of Herat. Afghanistan’s foreign ministry says it is holding talks with Iranian officials in a bid to convince them that the fuel is not for military use.
“We have taken all necessary measures to help lift the ban,” said foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Faqiri. “We have told Iranian officials through diplomatic channels in Kabul and Tehran that it is the people of Afghanistan who will suffer from this blockade.”
Around 30 percent of Afghanistan’s fuel is thought to come through transport routes from Iran, with much of the rest coming through the central Asian republics which border Afghanistan. afp Some other officials at the Afghan customs and commerce ministry said there are as many as 3,000 trucks stranded on the Iranian side of the border that were headed for the eastern Afghan provinces of Farah, Nimroz and Heart.
“This fuel is brought in by Afghan businessmen,” Mozammil Shinwari, the head of the Afghan commerce ministry’s international relations department, told The Associated Press. “We asked border authorities in Iran why the trucks were stopped, and were told that the order came from security officials in Iran.”
Shinwari said Afghan officials have met with officials in Iran, but no official explanation has been offered. Although Tehran has not officially confirmed the move, it appears to reflect Iran’s concern that the fuel is being funneled to NATO forces fighting the Taliban.
Afghan officials insist the stranded shipments – which include gasoline, diesel and heating oil from Iraq, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan – are aimed for the local market.
The fuel ban, however, comes at a critical time for Afghanistan, which has little crude oil and no refineries of its own. Over 50 percent of the imports come through Turkmenistan and the rest through Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Iran.
Shinwari and other officials said that the ban also halted Afghanistan-bound fuel trucks coming from Iraq to Iran. The ban has already had an impact on the local market. agencies