- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 23, 2001

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan Russian President Vladimir Putin promised yesterday to continue political and military support for the opposition Northern Alliance and said the Taliban should be excluded from Afghanistan's future government.
"We confirmed the intention of the Russian Federation to continue support to the Islamic State of Afghanistan in the military-technical sphere … and spoke of concrete plans to give humanitarian aid to the Afghan people," Mr. Putin said, using the name of the opposition Afghan government of ousted President Burhanuddin Rabbani.
Mr. Putin spoke at the end of a previously unannounced, pre-dawn meeting with his Tajik counterpart, Emomali Rakhmonov, and Mr. Rabbani, whose government was driven out of Kabul by the Taliban in 1996. Mr. Putin's participation highlighted the central role Russia wants to play in determining the makeup of a post-Taliban government.
[Meanwhile, officials in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, said yesterday the man convicted in a foiled plot to kill the Russian president is an Iraqi with links to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
[Revealing new details from the November plot, a spokesman for the National Security Ministry said Iraqi citizen Kianan Rostam underwent training in Afghanistan and in 1997 reached Russia's breakaway republic of Chechnya.]
Meeting separately with Mr. Rabbani before the three-sided session, Mr. Putin said Russia recognized his government as legitimate and supported it.
"The internationally recognized government long has been fighting to free its people. Our position [of supporting it] long has been defined," Mr. Putin said, according to the Russian Itar-Tass news agency.
The Russian leader also met separately with Mr. Rakhmonov for about two hours at the Tajik leader's guest house compound in Dushanbe. Mr. Rakhmonov told reporters the summit was arranged by Mr. Putin.
The three leaders issued a joint statement promising to intensify their efforts aimed at stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan and the region as a whole, and at providing humanitarian aid to displaced people.
"We hope that in this just fight, with our friends who support us, we will vanquish terrorism," Mr. Rabbani said in comments translated into Russian.
Mr. Putin made a predawn stopover in Tajikistan as he was returning to Moscow from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum's summit in the Chinese metropolis of Shanghai. He was accompanied by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.
Before Mr. Putin arrived in this Central Asian nation, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and the head of Moscow's Federal Security Service, Nikolai Patrushev, met here with Mr. Rakhmonov and top defense and security officials.
Moscow has backed Mr. Rabbani's government as well as the Northern Alliance, the military wing of the opposition to the fundamentalist Taliban militia that controls most of the country. Tajikistan is close to the alliance, which has a strong ethnic Tajik component.
Mr. Ivanov said countries that actively support the alliance, such as Russia, Iran and Tajikistan, needed to share their views in order to enhance their cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
Iran and Russia oppose letting so-called Taliban "moderates" into a broad-based coalition being considered to rule Afghanistan if the Taliban regime collapses under U.S.-led attacks.
"We consider the position of the Islamic State of Afghanistan that excludes the Taliban movement from a future Afghan government to be well-founded," Mr. Putin said.
However, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has expressed a willingness to include some rank-and-file Taliban members if they accept the rights of others. Pakistan, which until the current crisis was the Taliban's closest ally, is pressing for members of the militia to be included.


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