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Thursday, 25 May, 2000, 18:08 GMT 19:08 UK
Taleban warns neighbours
Taleban soldier
Taleban would retailiate against Russia's allies, officials say
Taleban leaders in Afghanistan say they will retaliate against any neighbouring country which allows Russia to use its air space to carry out air strikes.

Moscow accuses the Taleban of giving military aid to rebels in Chechnya and has threatened to bomb alleged training camps for Chechen fighters in Afghanistan.

But the Taleban has warned Moscow that the Russian air force would have to fly over one of the central Asian republics, making it a legitimate target for retaliation.

In neighbouring Uzbekistan, President Islam Karimov says he does not believe Russia would carry out its threat.

Provocation

The Taleban has angered Russia by recognising the rebel Chechens as a legitimate government and allowing them to open an embassy in Kabul.

Moscow believes they are giving much more than diplomatic help.

The Taleban denies the allegations, saying they have no common border with Chechnya and economic sanctions ban them from flying.

They have accused Moscow of scapegoating them for the Chechens' continuing resistance against Russian forces.

Unifying force

In Afghanistan, some people predict air strikes would be beneficial, uniting the Taleban and the opposition against a common enemy.

But most Afghans are not interested in the Russian threats, according to the BBC's Kate Clark in the capital Kabul.

They are used to war and know that the risk of dying in an isolated rocket attack would be tiny.

Most of the Afghan population have more immediate concerns - such as trying to find enough food for their families.

Russia is not the first super power to threaten air strikes.

The United States launched a cruise missile attack against suspected terrorist training grounds in Afghanistan in 1998.

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23 May 00 | South Asia
Taleban defends Chechnya stance
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