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Bush-Putin: Equal Treatment For Groups in Transitional Afghan Government - 2001-11-14


President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin say they want a multi-ethnic government in Afghanistan now that Taleban leaders have fled the capital, Kabul. The two presidents met at the White House where they vowed to work together to counter the threat of international terrorism.

President Bush says Russia and the United States both want a new government for Afghanistan that represents all its people and respects all its neighbors. "We support the U.N.'s efforts to fashion a post-Taleban government that is broadly-based and multi-ethnic," he said. "The new government must export neither terror nor drugs and it must respect fundamental human rights."

President Bush says minority ethnic groups in the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance will not have an unfair share of power in a transitional government for Afghanistan just because they now control the capital. "There is no preferential place at the bargaining table," he said. "All people will be treated the same. That is what we are working with our friends the Russians on. That's the concept we are working on with the U.N. That's only fair. That's has been the vision all along."

Concern about how the Northern Alliance would treat members of the ethnic Pashtun majority was one reason U.S. military planners had hoped to delay the capture of Kabul until the United Nations came up with a transitional government. But when Taleban forces abandoned the city late Monday, the Northern Alliance moved in.

There have been reports that some Northern Alliance fighters have executed Taleban prisoners of war. President Putin said if there have been human rights abuses, they should be investigated. President Bush said U.S. soldiers are working with the Northern Alliance to "urge restraint."

He told reporters, "We will continue to work with our Northern Alliance, the Northern Alliance commanders to make sure they respect the human rights of the people that they are liberating."

Mr. Bush said the U.S.-led coalition is making "great progress" in bringing members of the al-Qaida terrorist group to justice. President Bush says al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is the prime suspect in the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

President Bush said Russia and the United States are working together against terrorism. Tuesday they agreed to share information on countering bio-terrorism and safeguarding biological, chemical, and nuclear supplies.

"Russia and America share the same threat and the same resolve. We will fight and defeat terrorist networks wherever they exist," he said. "Our highest priority is to keep terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction."

Mr. Bush says he and President Putin also agreed to increase cooperation on combating organized crime and drug trafficking, which he said are leading sources of terrorist financing.

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