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SLUG: 2-287665 Russia/US/Afghanistan (L)









INTRO: Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov says it could take years to remove the last remnants of the al-Qaida terrorist network from Afghan soil. V-O-A's Paula Wolfson reports Mr. Ivanov talked about the U-S operation in Afghanistan during an interview on American television.

TEXT: It was an interview that would have been unthinkable at the height of the Cold War, and another sign of how the United States' relationship with Russia has changed.

For more than 20-minutes, the Russian defense minister answered questions in a candid fashion for broadcast to an American television audience. Speaking in English on the N-B-C program "Meet the Press," he addressed a wide range of topics, including the war in Afghanistan, the threat posed by Iraq and a new era of intelligence-sharing between the United States and Russia.

He said the American operation in Afghanistan has successfully dispersed large groups of terrorists. However, he warned it will take time to completely remove the last holdouts.

/// IVANOV ACT ///

It will take years to dismantle the roots of al-Qaida and Taleban.

/// END ACT ///

Mr. Ivanov said the Russian people know about Afghanistan, a reference to the ten-year Soviet occupation, during which thousands of soldiers were killed. He was asked why the Soviets failed and so many died.


Because the Soviet Union, at the time, was trying to impose military power on every square mile of Afghanistan. As far as I know, no foreign country, which takes part in this operation in Afghanistan now has such an aim.

/// END ACT ///

The Russian defense minister went on to say that he believes Osama bin Laden may still be alive. He said he has no firm information, but has a feeling the al-Qaida leader is still inside Afghanistan, or near the border. Mr. Ivanov predicted, in time, Osama bin Laden will be found.


Sooner or later, maybe in years. But, still, he will be captured. Because, I am convinced he should be captured.

/// END ACT ///

The war on terrorism was a key topic earlier this week when Sergei Ivanov met with President Bush at the White House. Mr. Bush has praised Russian cooperation from the start. Defense Secretary Ivanov once a K-G-B official, said on "Meet the Press" that the former Cold War enemies are now actively sharing intelligence information. He said Russian agents are working with the U-S military Central Command in Tampa, Florida, and Russian agencies in Moscow are co-operating as well.


There are lots of American intelligence officers in Moscow who routinely, on a daily basis, attend the appropriate Russian services and get information.

/// END ACT ///

On Iraq, Mr. Ivanov said Russia wants to see Baghdad grant full access to weapons inspectors. When questioned about arms control, he repeated Moscow's view that nuclear warheads taken out of service must be destroyed, not stored.

Despite the differences with Washington over the storage issue, Defense Minister Ivanov sounded optimistic about the future for arms control. He described President Bush as "a visionary" who understands that the Cold War is over. (signed)


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