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Russia to Supply Afghan Opposition

September 24, 2001

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MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia will intensify its support of Afghan opposition forces and is prepared to supply anti-Taliban fighters with weapons and military equipment, President Vladimir Putin said Monday.

In a speech on national television, Putin also said that Central Asian nations, which Russia considers its sphere of influence, had not ruled out providing their airfields for anti-terrorist operations.

``We are broadening cooperation with the internationally recognized government of Afghanistan headed by Mr. Rabbani and will render additional aid to its armed forces in the form of the supply of weapons and military equipment,″ Putin said.

Putin was referring to the government-in-exile of President Burhanuddin Rabbani. The Russians already have been helping the Afghan opposition, which controls about 5 percent of the territory of Afghanistan.

Putin also said that Russia was ready to open its airspace for humanitarian aid in case of an attack on Afghanistan and said that Central Asian countries may open their airfields to the United States.

The Russian leader said Russia would provide active cooperation with international anti-terrorism efforts by further sharing intelligence on the infrastructure of international terrorist groups and their bases.

Putin also called for greater reliance on international organizations such as the United Nations and its Security Council in determining what steps to take against international terrorism.

The Russian leader said his position was shared by his country’s allies in Central Asia, nations that are near Afghanistan and which ``do not rule″ out providing their air bases in the fight against terrorism.

``Other, deeper forms of cooperation between Russia and participants in the anti-terrorist operation are possible. The depth and character of this cooperation will directly depend on our relations with these countries and on mutual understanding,″ Putin said.

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