4 October Reuters

Iran sends troops to seal Afghan border

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Iran said on Thursday it has sent thousands of extra troops to its eastern border with Afghanistan to stop refugees flooding across the frontier in case of US strikes.

It said troops were digging trenches, setting up barbed and electronic detection devices to halt up to 400,000 refugees, which the United Nations says could head to Iran, adding to the more than two million Afghans already living here. "We have established complete security in eastern borders especialy in Khorasan province," Thursday's Abrar daily quoted border guard commander Brigadier-General Mohammad Sanei as saying. "Efforts are also underway to bring more security to the southern border province of Sistan-Baluchestan." Twenty-four battalions were now guarding the rugged 900-km frontier, he said. "We have dug trenches, set up electronic devices and barbed wire and established military camps with look-out towers to completely seal off Iran's border and not let any Afghans slip through," he said.

Iran has orderd its armed forces to seal the Afghan border and aims to set up a series of camps along the frontier to aid the refugees without letting them onto Iranian soil. International aid organisations say they are ready to help and cooperate with Iran, but say they are unable to send their staff into Afghanistan. They report few people reaching the border areas so far and say the majority of refugees are heading to Pakistan. Iran has strongly condemned the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Centre, but has ruled out any support for any US-led strikes against the prime suspect Osama bin Laden and the ruling Taliban militia sheltering him. Defence Minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani warned this week that Iran would "confront" any US planes straying into Iranian airspace.

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