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US Afghan supplies cross Russia

Pakistani trucks near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in Chaman, 2 March 2009
Pakistani supply routes have been hit by repeated Taleban attacks

A first shipment of non-military supplies has crossed Russia on its way to US forces in Afghanistan, Russia's Interfax news agency has said.

A train carrying goods left the Latvian port of Riga last week and reached Kazakhstan by way of Russia, after Moscow agreed to allow such journeys.

In coming months, hundreds of supply trains will reach Afghanistan via Russia and central Asian countries.

Taleban attacks on routes in Pakistan prompted the hunt for alternatives.

The US embassy in Latvia said Washington was aiming to send 20 to 30 shipments of supplies each week to Afghanistan via Latvia, Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Russia and Nato reached the deal on Afghan supplies in April last year but Russia's brief war with Georgia in August prevented the agreement being put into practice, as Russian ties with Nato deteriorated.

Western forces in Afghanistan have been struggling to put down a Taleban insurgency.

Last month, US President Barack Obama pledged to send 17,000 more troops in a bid to stabilise the war-torn country, bringing the number of US forces in Afghanistan to more than 50,000.

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