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Russian FM Says Moscow Ready for More Cooperation on Afghanistan

By VOA News
27 March 2009

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has again stressed his country's readiness for expanding international cooperation on Afghanistan.

Speaking at a meeting in Moscow of representatives from China, Central Asian countries and other states, the Russian minister expressed readiness to work with NATO and other countries in stabilizing Afghanistan. He particularly stressed the importance of efforts to deal with the flow of illegal drugs into Russia and other Afghan neighbors.

Russia already allows NATO transit of non-lethal goods through its territory into Afghanistan, and Lavrov expressed readiness to examine any other type of constructive cooperation.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization set up the conference. The group includes Russia, China and the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also is taking part as are Iranian and U.S. envoys.

The conference in Moscow comes four days before a U.N.-led meeting in The Hague on Afghanistan, where the United States and NATO allies are fighting a Taliban insurgency.

Meanwhile, European Union foreign ministers meeting in the Czech Republic have indicated readiness to send more police trainers and financial aid to Afghanistan, but not additional troops.

However, Britain's Army chief, General Richard Dannatt, told "The Times" newspaper his country is ready to send additional forces to Afghanistan. Defense Ministry sources put the number of such troops at about 2,000.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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