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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 April, 2003, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Putin sending troops to Tajikistan
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov
Tajikistan has agreed to an increase in Russia's military presence
President Vladimir Putin - who is touring of Central Asia - has announced plans to step up Russia's military presence in Tajikistan.

"We plan to reinforce our presence here... The Tajik president backs these plans," he said during a visit to a Russian military complex near the capital Dushanbe.

He said the situation in Central Asia "remained complicated... especially with regards to Afghanistan".

There are 19,000 troops in Tajikistan - 11,000 of them patrolling the country's southern border with Afghanistan.

Hundreds of kilograms of Afghan drugs reportedly pass through the border every month.

Mr Putin said Russian "special services have recently noticed increased activity from the Taleban and al-Qaeda" in Afghanistan.

Status denied

He reaffirmed support for United States military action in the country and Russia's acceptance of the presence of American bases in several Central Asian countries - traditionally seen as its backyard.

Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov agreed to a rise in Russian troop deployments in talks with Mr Putin on Saturday.

But Russian and Tajik officials have so far failed to reach agreement on their exact status.

Tajikistan has not yet ratified a 1999 accord giving Russian military complexes the status of being a "base" which would give soldiers various benefits.

Russian military commander Alexander Baranov in Afghanistan said Russian and Tajik officials continue to have a "difference of opinion" over the issue.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, who is accompanying Mr Putin, is due to meet his Tajik counterpart again on Sunday, as well as the leaders of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, for a meeting of the regional Eurasian Economic Community.




SEE ALSO:
Timeline: Tajikistan
11 Mar 03  |  Country profiles
Country profile: Tajikistan
11 Mar 03  |  Country profiles
US and Uzbekistan agree pact
13 Oct 01  |  Asia-Pacific


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