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Russia, Afghanistan coordinate Afghan debt settlement - FM Lavrov

RIA Novosti

23/02/2007 13:41 KABUL, February 23 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and Afghanistan have coordinated the terms of settlement of Afghanistan's debt to the former U.S.S.R., which, according to Russian experts' estimates, totals $10 billion, Russia's foreign minister said Friday.

"The problem of Afghan debt settlement has been coordinated, only some formalities remain to be settled," Sergei Lavrov, on a working visit to Afghanistan, told journalists in Kabul.

The minister said relevant documents are being drafted, and added the issue settlement will help the two countries cooperate in the economic and trade spheres and contribute to Russian investment into the Afghan economy.

Lavrov said Afghanistan is ready to cooperate with regional security body, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in fighting terrorism and drug trafficking.

Afghanistan has regained its position as the world's top drug producer since U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban in 2001. Illegal drug production and trade is the only source of income for many in the war-torn southwest Asian nation, and is a major source of financing for Islamist militants.

Two CSTO members, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, share borders with Afghanistan and are major trafficking routes for drug smugglers from the country. Heroin and other drugs from Afghanistan have also flooded Russia and other ex-Soviet states since the 1990s.

The Russian minister also said Russia will continue providing assistance for Afghanistan to rehabilitate the country.

He also said an agreement has been reached that the Afghan government will provide assistance to Russian companies working in the country.

A joint statement of the Russian and Afghan foreign ministers says that Afghanistan is interested in Russian businesses taking part in the country's rehabilitation and is ready to create favorable conditions for them. It also says that Russia will help Afghanistan fight drug trafficking.

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