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Iran Puts Army On War Alert

With tensions increasing with neighboring Afghanistan, Iran on Tuesday put its military and top civilian officials on full alert, state media reported.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned Monday that the actions of Afghanistan's Taliban militia were leading to a regional crisis and urged Muslim countries to intercede.

Tensions between the two neighbors have been running high since the Taliban admitted Thursday to killing eight Iranian diplomats and a journalist last month.

On Tuesday, thousands of Iranians marched in the city of Qom, south of Tehran, protesting the diplomats' deaths, Iranian television reported.

Iran has massed tens of thousands of troops on its border with Afghanistan, and there have been widespread calls in the country for a strike against the Taliban, whose forces killed the Iranians after capturing the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif on Aug. 8.

"All officials and those in charge of affairs of the country, including the armed forces, must be ready for speedy, timely and decisive implementation of whatever decisions the senior political and security authorities deem necessary," the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Khamenei as saying Tuesday.

Taliban leaders have said they have rushed troops to the border region to repulse any Iranian attack.

The Taliban, which controls about 90 percent of Afghanistan, is widely believed to be supported by Pakistan, where in another sign of rising tensions Tuesday, a group of Sunni Moslems set fire to a Shi'ite Mosque. Pakistan has a Sunni majority while most Iranians are Shi'ite Moslems.

In Washington, President Clinton's national security team is reported to be watching the rising tensions with detachment as intelligence reports indicate that border tensions may escalate into a regional war.

Both Iran and the Taleban are considered to be among the United States' most implacable foes.

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