Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, says that the country will not enter a military confrontation with Afghanistan's Taliban militia, an Iranian paper reported Sunday.
The statement came amid speculation in the U.S. intelligence community that Iran was poised for an incursion into Afghanistan. Iran massed troops and equipment on the border last week for military exercises.Iran has warned the Taliban army it would take "necessary measures" to win the release of Iranians believed held captive by the militia.
The English-language Tehran Times quoted Khamenei's comments from a question-and-answer session last Thursday at Teachers Training University.
He said he was "personally following the developments of Iran related to Afghanistan" and "assured that there will be no confrontation with the Taliban," the paper said.
The paper did not say why there was a delay in reporting the comments of Khamenei, who also is commander-in-chief of Iran's armed forces.
Iran accuses the Taliban of seizing 47 Iranians - including 11 diplomats and a journalist - from the official Islamic Republic News Agency, when its forces captured the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif on Aug. 8.
The Taliban says it knows nothing about the diplomats, and Iranian officials fear they may have been killed.
The Afghan militia acknowledged holding some Iranian truck drivers and on Thursday freed five of them. They arrived in Tehran on Sunday, IRNA reported.
The drivers, who were received at Tehran's Mehrabad Airport by their families and officials from the Foreign Ministry, said they were held in the southern city of Kandahar along with several dozen other Iranians.