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November 19, 2001
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Russia to open embassy in Afghanistan

Arun Mohanty in Moscow

Russia is likely to be one of the first countries to open its embassy in Kabul following the Northern Alliance's capture of the Afghan capital.

A high-level delegation, led by Russian ambassador with special authority Alexander Oblov, has reached Kabul to hold discussions with alliance leader Burhanuddin Rabbani, who proclaimed himself Afghan president and entered the capital on Saturday.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said the delegation's mission was to hold discussions with the present leadership, meet leaders of different ethnic groups and pave the way for the formation of a broad-based, multi-ethnic government in Afghanistan.

The delegation, comprising top officials from defence, foreign and emergency handling ministries, was received by senior leaders of the Northern Alliance at the Bagram airport on Sunday and taken to the Afghan ministry of external affairs.

Observers said the Russian group was the first official foreign delegation to reach Kabul. Though an American delegation is reportedly in the Afghan capital at present, its status is not clear.

Oblov said on his arrival in Kabul that his delegation would establish contacts and hold important discussions with Afghan leaders, meet Francesc Vendrell, the United Nations general secretary's deputy special representative to Afghanistan, and talk to representatives of different ethnic groups.

"One of our main objectives is to make preparations for opening our embassy in Kabul as soon as possible," said Oblov.

Ivanov, amid media reports of Russia sending its special troops to Afghanistan, reiterated that Moscow would not send its troops to that country. He also ruled out the participation of Russian forces in a proposed international peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan.

Ivanov, however, also spoke about the "expansion of Russian participation in search and rescue operation" in Afghanistan, particularly in the wake of the flight of the Taleban militia from Kabul and other key cities.

Analysts see in Ivanov's declaration a possibility of Russia sending special forces to Afghanistan.

Indo-Asian News Service

America's War on Terror: The Complete Coverage
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