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Monday, 22 October, 2001, 04:41 GMT 05:41 UK
Russia bolsters Northern Alliance
Northern Alliance chief Burhanuddin Rabbani (left), Russian President Vladimir Putin (c), Tajik President Emomali Rahmonov
Anti-Taleban troika: Russia is cementing an old alliance
Russia, the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan and the Afghan opposition Northern Alliance have signed a joint statement pledging to find a political solution in Afghanistan.

The statement followed talks in the Tajik capital Dushanbe between Russian President Vladimir Putin, his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rahmonov and the last president of Afghanistan, Burhanuddin Rabbani, who heads the Northern Alliance.

All the ethnic groups should take part in forming the next Afghan government

Joint statement issued in Dushanbe
Mr Putin voiced strong support for the Northern Alliance, promising to provide military, technical and humanitarian help for what he called Afghanistan's "legitimate" government.

Moscow has assisted the anti-Taleban alliance for many years.

But the BBC's Monica Whitlock in Dushanbe says it is unusual to hear such an open statement that Moscow wants a friendly government in Kabul.

It appears to be at odds with what the leadership in Pakistan has said it wants - and Pakistan is now a key regional ally of the United States.

Stronger UN role

The three leaders said that "all the ethnic groups should take part in forming the next Afghan government". They called for a stronger role for the United Nations "and all foreign governments" in stabilising Afghanistan.

Ousted Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani
Rabbani heads an alliance of mixed ethnicity against the mainly Pashtun Taleban
Mr Putin arrived in Tajikistan from Shanghai, where he and President George Bush declared that Washington and Russia were building a new relationship.

Our correspondent says the occasion in Dushanbe was full of symbolism, with the three leaders sitting together under their respective national flags.

President Rahmonov at one point referred to Mr Rabbani as the president of Afghanistan.

They were later joined by the military leader of the Northern Alliance, General Mohammad Qassim Fahim. Mr Putin called him the "Afghan minister of defence" - apparently not by accident.

Mr Putin ruled out any role for the Taleban in a future government, saying they were "linked with international terrorists".

Mr Rabbani was ousted by the Taleban in 1996 but is still recognised as Afghanistan's president by the United Nations and most states.

The Northern Alliance still holds a swathe of northeastern Afghanistan.

About 25,000 Russian troops are stationed in Tajikistan to help guard its 1,200-kilometre (750-mile) border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan Foreign Ministry Spokesman
Riaz Mohammed Khan gives his reaction to Mr Putin's support for the Northern Alliance
See also:

20 Oct 01 | South Asia
Key sites targeted by US troops
19 Oct 01 | South Asia
US special forces 'inside Afghanistan'
21 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Apec unites against terrorism
25 Sep 01 | Americas
Powell welcomes Russian support
27 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Tajikistan
07 Dec 00 | South Asia
US and Russia unite against Taleban
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