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    Afghan-Iranian-Tajik TV channel to go on air

    KABUL (PAN): A long-awaited Dari language television channel, a joint project of Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Iran, would go on the air in a few months, an information ministry official said on Tuesday.

    The neighbours -- all Persian language-speaking countries -- negotiated the project for more than a decade. Former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani had floated the idea in 1991 after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

    But civil wars in Afghanistan and Tajikistan in the 1990s forced the plan to be shelved. In July 2006, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once again raised the point at a trilateral summit in Dushanbe.

    The Iranian TV head Ezatollah Zarghami, visited Afghanistan and Tajikistan in February 2009 to discuss the plan. One of the major issues around the launch of the venture has been differences in broadcasting policies of the three countries.

    In July 2008, delegates from the three countries discussed the content and structure of programmes and explicitly debated the possibility of airing concerts and dances and whether women presenters should wear the hejab as they do on Iranian TV channels.

    The channel would start broadcasting from Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, programmes that will focus on cultural, education, social and sport programmes, Afghan advisor to the information and culture minister, said.

    Jalal Noorani, an information ministry official, told Pajhwok Afghan News: "Most of the differences over the channel policy came from Iran and there are still problems and objections in this regard.

    For instance, he said, the Iranian government did not want female singers to be shown on the channel. There is also a mismatch of perceptions on broadcasting news of the three countries, music and entertainment programmes.

    "It is difficult, because a programme in Tajikistan will have no problem, but in Iran it may fuel tensions and this problem can disunite the neighbours," he said. A policy acceptable to the three countries should be evolved, he added. The issue will be discussed at a forthcoming tripartite meeting.

    Writer and analyst Habibullah Rafi said: "Even if such a channel goes on air, it will have no benefit, because the Iranian government wants to manipulate its programmes."

    Since the three countries had different policies, they could not work jointly, he said, adding even if the channel was launched, it would be a waste of money.

    The Iranian officials in Kabul could not be reached for comments on the subject.