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Allied Planes to Use Tajik Airport

December 5, 2001

MOSCOW (AP) _ The Tajik president said Tuesday U.S. and French planes could use a Tajik airport for attacks on neighboring Afghanistan.

Emomali Rakhmonov said combat aircraft would be allowed to use the airfield at Kulyab, 187 miles south of Dushanbe, the Tajik capital, and 31 miles north of the Afghan border, according to Russia’s state-controlled ORT television.

Last month, Tajikistan offered three air bases to the anti-terrorist coalition, but said those installations only could be used for humanitarian operations.

Rakhmonov’s decision to let combat planes attack from Kulyab came a day after a group of Italian airmen and U.S. paratroopers examined the airport military use.

Rakhmonov also told ORT he would open the Kulyab airfield to Russian military planes for delivery of ``military and humanitarian aid″ to the Afghan people and to Russian border guards, who patrol the Tajik-Afghan border.

Initially Tajikistan was reluctant to become too involved in the U.S.-led military campaign against Afghanistan, with which it shares a 750-mile border.

The U.S. military was allowed to use one airfield in neighboring Uzbekistan, where at least 1,000 soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division are based. It also has made use of military facilities in Pakistan _ although nearly all combat missions have been flown from aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea and from a British base in the Indian Ocean.

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