Presidents of Russia, Tajikistan, Afghan opposition meet in Dushanbe

Monday, October 22nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (AP) _ Russia's president promised Monday to continue political and military support for the opposition northern alliance and said the Taliban should be excluded from Afghanistan's future government.

``We confirmed the intention of the Russian Federation to continue support to the Islamic State of Afghanistan in the military-technical sphere ... and spoke of concrete plans to give humanitarian aid to the Afghan people,'' Vladamir Putin said, using the name of the opposition Afghan government of ousted President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Putin spoke at the end of a previously unannounced, pre-dawn meeting with his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rakhmonov and Rabbani, whose government was driven out of Kabul by the Taliban in 1996. Putin's participation highlighted the central role Russia wants to play in determining the makeup of a post-Taliban government.

Meeting separately with Rabbani before the three-sided session, Putin said Russia recognized his government as legitimate and supported it.

``The internationally recognized government long has been fighting to free its people. Our position (of supporting it) long has been defined,'' Putin said, according to the Russian ITAR-Tass news agency.

Putin also met separately with Rakhmonov for about two hours at Rakhmonov's guest house compound in Dushanbe. Rakhmonov told reporters the summit was arranged by Putin.

The three leaders issued a joint statement promising to intensify their efforts aimed at stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan and the region as a whole, and providing humanitarian aid to displaced people.

``We hope that in this just fight, with our friends who support us, we will vanquish terrorism,'' Rabbani said in comments translated into Russian.

Putin made a pre-dawn stopover in Tajikistan as he was returning to Moscow from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum's summit in Shanghai, China. He was accompanied by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

Before Putin arrived in this Central Asian country, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and the head of Moscow's Federal Security Service, Nikolai Patrushev, met here with Rakhmonov and top defense and security officials.

Moscow has backed Rabbani's government as well as the northern alliance, the military wing of the opposition to the fundamentalist Taliban militia that controls most of the country. Tajikistan is close to the alliance, which has a strong ethnic Tajik component.

Ivanov said countries that actively support the northern alliance, such as Russia, Iran and Tajikistan, needed to share their views so as to enhance their cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

Iran and Russia oppose letting so-called Taliban ``moderates'' into a broad-based coalition being considered to rule Afghanistan if the Taliban regime collapses under U.S.-led attacks.

``We consider the position of the Islamic State of Afghanistan that excludes the Taliban movement from a future Afghan government to be well-founded,'' Putin said.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, however, has expressed a willingness to include some rank-and-file Taliban members _ if they accept the rights of others. Pakistan, which until the current crisis was the Taliban's closest ally, is pressing for members of the militia to be included.

Tajikistan, which shares a volatile 750-mile border with Afghanistan, has attracted attention both as a possible launch pad for military attacks and the most convenient place to marshal humanitarian efforts. About 25,000 Russian troops are stationed in the former Soviet republic to help guard the border.

Rakhmonov on Monday hailed the effort to help Afghan refugees, saying that up to 10 airplanes a day and a number of trains were bringing humanitarian supplies to his country for distribution.