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Russia ready to resume military aid to Afghanistan - diplomat

RIA Novosti

05/03/2007 13:10 MOSCOW, March 5 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is willing to discuss the resumption of military aid to Afghanistan during the upcoming visit of the country's defense minister to Moscow, a Russian diplomat said Monday.

"In the light of increasing Taliban and Al-Qaeda activities, President Karzai and the Afghan government have asked Russia to resume supplies of military equipment [to Afghanistan]," said Alexander Maryasov, a department head at the Foreign Ministry.

In December 2002, Russia's Defense Ministry signed a contract with Afghanistan to provide military-technical assistance to the Central Asian state with deliveries of motor vehicles, fuel and lubricants, communication equipment, topographic maps, truck-mounted repair workshops and automobile and armor equipment spare parts.

However, deliveries of Russian weaponry to Afghanistan were suspended in 2005 allegedly in order to avoid "the duplication" of U.S. aid to the country, which that year totaled over $929 million, more than 80% of which was earmarked for the military and police.

"In 2002-2005, our [Russia's] military-technical assistance to Afghanistan exceeded $200 million," the Russian diplomat said.

"We have delivered airport maintenance equipment, a missile defense system to protect the Kabul airport, communication equipment, trucks, repair equipment, spare parts and manuals," Maryasov said.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said February 23 that 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.

"The problem of Afghan debt settlement has been coordinated, and only some formalities remain to be settled," the minister said on a working visit to Afghanistan.

Lavrov said Afghanistan is ready to cooperate with the regional security bodies, the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, to fight 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.

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