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Kazakstan, Iran Worry Over Afghan

August 14, 1998

MOSCOW (AP) _ President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakstan and Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi expressed concern Friday over the fighting in northern Afghanistan.

``A broad coalition government should be set up in Afghanistan to take the interests of all its ethnic minorities into account,″ Kharazi said following a meeting with Nazarbayev in the Kazak capital, Astana.

The fighting in Afghanistan ``can undoubtedly affect the security of Central Asian countries,″ he said, according to the Interfax news agency.

The former Soviet republics in Central Asia fear that if the Taliban army gains control of all of Afghanistan, it will entrench a radical Islamic state and that there will be an influx of refugees and weapons across their borders.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin said during a trip to the northwestern city of Novgorod on Friday that Russia and two Central Asian countries, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, had agreed to cooperate and ``raise a barrier to the Taliban″ by strengthening those countries’ borders with Afghanistan.

After a phone call with Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov, Yeltsin said the two countries agreed that Taliban movements ``pose a real threat to the Commonwealth of Independent States’ southern borders,″ according to Interfax.

Yeltsin also had a similar conversation Friday night with Uzbek President Islam Karimov, his press service said.

However, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said Friday he saw no danger of Taliban fighters crossing into the former Soviet republics.

The situation in Afghanistan is ``complex but controllable,″ he said, according to Interfax.

Kharazi, the Iranian foreign minister, expressed concern about the reported abduction of 11 Iranians, including employees of the Iranian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif, the stronghold of the opposition Northern Alliance, which recently fell to the Taliban.

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