KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ Iran refused an Afghan aircraft carrying relief goods to Iraq permission to fly over its territory because of U.N. sanctions against Iraq and Afghanistan, the Taliban foreign ministry said Sunday.

The Afghan aircraft also was carrying athletes to Iraq, the foreign ministry said in a statement. There were no details about the athletes or the kind of humanitarian aid being donated by Afghanistan's hardline Islamic Taliban rulers.

It's also not clear when the aircraft was denied permission.

The United Nations imposed limited sanctions on the Taliban last November after they refused to hand over Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, who is accused by the United States of masterminding the bombings of its embassies in Africa in August 1998. Washington wants bin Laden to stand trial in the United States or a third country.

Iraq also faces U.N. sanctions, which were sharply criticized by the Taliban foreign ministry statement as U.S.-inspired and aimed at the world's poorest.

``We are concerned about the plight and suffering of the Iraqi people,'' the statement said.

After Iraq, the U.N. has targeted Afghanistan, it said. ``We urge the Muslim countries and the world to help lift sanctions,'' the statement said.

Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world, has been devastated by more than two decades of civil war. The Taliban have made international appeals to lift sanctions and increase humanitarian aid.

But the Taliban, who rule nearly 95 percent of Afghanistan, including the capital Kabul, are under bitter criticism from many Western countries for their human rights abuses and a harsh version of Islam that represses women, forbidding them from work and education.