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#3
Russian Pledges Cooperation With US
By Anne Usher
Associated Press Writer
Sept. 19, 2001

MOSCOW Russian and U.S. officials agreed Wednesday on increasing joint
and individual efforts against the threat of terrorism from Afghanistan,
home base of the main suspect in last week's terror attacks, Osama bin Laden.

But statements by both sides, issued after daylong meetings, didn't address
whether Russia would participate in a potential U.S. attack on Afghanistan
to retaliate for last week's hijackings in America.

Earlier Wednesday, Gen. Anatoly Kvashnin, the chief of Russia's General
Staff, said during a visit to Tajikistan that Moscow "has not considered,
and is not planning to consider, participation in a military operation
against Afghanistan."

Kvashnin's statement came as a U.S. delegation led by Deputy Secretary of
State Richard Armitage met a team of senior Russian officials, led by First
Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov, a former director of Russia's
Foreign Intelligence Service.

"Agreement was reached to further enhance joint and parallel efforts to
counter threats coming from the Taliban in Afghanistan," the statements
said, referring to the militia that rules most of Afghanistan and that has
offered shelter to bin Laden.

"It was emphasized that such a fight should not be a one-time effort, nor
spontaneous in its nature, but rather be based on a comprehensive and
long-term basis, in the interest of stamping out this evil," the statements
said.

Officials could not immediately be reached to elaborate.

Russia has long been concerned that the conflict in Afghanistan could spill
into Central Asian countries along Russia's southern flank. Those worries
have been heightened by last week's terrorist attacks in the United States.

However, Russian officials, lawmakers and former senior military commanders
from the Soviet war in Afghanistan have cautioned against hasty retaliation.

Also Wednesday, Pakistani Ambassador Iftikhar Murshed met with Deputy
Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov to discuss terrorism, the Foreign
Ministry said in a statement, without elaborating. Pakistan is seen as of
key importance because of its ties to the Taliban and because its president
has offered to help U.S. forces hunt down bin Laden.

Meanwhile, Russian lawmakers called for strong international action against
terror, but said any military operation should proceed cautiously.

The State Duma, the lower house of parliament, began its autumn session
Wednesday with a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the Sept. 11
attacks. The chamber then approved a resolution calling for stronger global
action against terrorism and for creating an international anti-terror
center.

Some liberal lawmakers urged President Vladimir Putin to make Russia's
support for a U.S.-led military action unequivocal.

"This is our chance to become a great power, and Putin must not miss it,"
lawmaker Boris Nemtsov told reporters. "We must say clearly that we are
together with the United States and Europe, and not mumble something about
protecting the Islamic world, which is not threatened by anyone."

Putin, visiting the Black Sea resort of Sochi, said Wednesday that the
world's main task is "to work out shared principles and practical
mechanisms for cooperation in combating terrorism," according to the
Interfax news agency.

In recent years, Russia has cast itself as a victim of international
terrorism, saying the rebels it is fighting in Chechnya are aided by bin
Laden.

On Monday, Russian officials said they had discovered evidence linking
Chechen rebels to the attacks in the United States. The Federal Security
Service said during a raid in Chechnya it found a computer compact disc
with instructions on flying Boeing aircraft, the planes used in the attacks
on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

On Wednesday, the rebels denied involvement in a statement, saying Russia
was trying to take advantage of the tragedy in the United States to justify
the war.

 
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