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Thursday, 20 September, 2001, 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK
Tajikistan shuts out Afghans
A group of Afghan refugees
Increasingly the Afghan people have nowhere to go
By the BBC's Stephen Dalziel

The Tajik President, Emomali Rahmonov, has said that his country's border with Afghanistan is closed to all refugees who may try to escape from any conflict.

He was speaking after close consultations with Moscow, whose troops defend the Tajik border.

It is yet another sign of how deeply involved Russia will be in any action which the US takes in response to last week's attacks on New York and Washington.

The Soviet Union may have collapsed 10 years ago, but as far as Moscow is concerned, the Tajik-Afghan border is Russia's frontline in its struggle with international terrorism.

Ten thousand Russian border guards defend the 1,400 kilometre-long frontier.

Not enough food

Mr Rahmonov said that Tajikistan - and, by extension, Russia - could not afford to let Afghan refugees into the country, because of the risk that there would be representatives of terrorist organisations among them.

He also pointed out that Tajikistan was suffering from the effects of drought, and could not take on the responsibility of feeding more people.

Tajik President Emomali Rahmonov
President Rahmonov follows Russia's security lead
Tajikistan has a further 15,000 Russian troops on its territory in the 201st infantry division, meaning that Dushanbe takes its lead on security issues from Moscow.

The Secretary of the Russian Security Council, Vladimir Rushailo, is currently in Dushanbe.

The Russian position on military co-operation with the US in any future conflict remains ambiguous.

The Chief of the General Staff, General Anatoly Kvashnin, who has also been visiting Russian troops in Tajikistan, was adamant on Wednesday that there would be no military help from Russia for the US.

But the Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, said after meeting his American counterpart, Colin Powell, in Washington, that his country was prepared to co-operate fully with the US.

It seems likely, though, that the Americans will want the help of Russian intelligence, rather than troops.

See also:

19 Sep 01 | South Asia
Kabul checkpoints stem refugee exodus
19 Sep 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Inside Afghanistan
19 Sep 01 | Europe
Russians find new empathy with US
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Bin Laden's Afghan victims
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
On edge: Afghanistan's neighbours
17 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan - a tough military option
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