Afghans face fuel squeeze by Iran

Jan. 10, 2011 at 1:18 PM   |   Comments

KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Afghans face sharp increases in fuel prices as Iranian restrictions on tanker traffic at key border crossings enter a second month, officials say.

The price of refined fuel, up by more than 50 percent in some provinces, has caused gas stations on major highways to close and increased the costs of other basic commodities, including food and heating oil, just as winter sets in, The New York Times reported Sunday.

Relations between Afghanistan and Iran are strained over the issue and it creates more difficulty for Afghan President Hamid Karzai and NATO forces as they try to rebuild the country's economy and provide basic services while dealing with a resurgent Taliban.

Afghan officials say Iranian authorities have told them they have been blocking the incoming tankers out of concern the fuel is being used by NATO military forces in Afghanistan, an assertion that NATO and the Afghan government deny.

The restrictions began in early December as Iranian authorities blocked as many as 2,500 fuel tankers from crossing the border, said Faridullah Sherzai, head of the Afghan Commerce Ministry's fuel department.

"The Iranians want to place some restrictions to ensure these fuels are not used for military forces but these fuels are not used by NATO forces at all, they are used by civilians in everyday life," Sherzai said.

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