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Afghanistan's Neighbors Gather in Beijing - 2002-01-07


Foreign ministers from six of Afghanistan's key neighbors gathered in Beijing Monday for talks about relations with the war-torn country. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization's own security agenda was overshadowed by global anti-terrorism efforts.

Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan said his colleagues are "deeply concerned" about the war in next-door Afghanistan. He said Afghanistan's neighbors hope the country will become peaceful, neutral and maintain friendly relations with nearby nations.

During a break in the one-day Beijing talks, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the group supports guarantees that Afghanistan never again threatens its neighbors or is a source of terrorism, separatism or extremism.

The six-nation regional forum called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and new member Uzbekistan.

The group was formed about five years ago to broker border disputes, but has since evolved into a broader security alliance.

This meeting was dominated by the U.S.-led war against terrorists in Afghanistan and the desire that the post-war period be free of domination by any outside country. The group stressed the importance of the role of the United Nations in keeping peace and supervising rebuilding.

Analysts say Beijing in particular is worried that the United States will be too influential in what China considers its backyard.

The foreign ministers issued a joint statement acknowledging that the anti-terrorism fight should be conducted at the global, regional and national levels.

Both Russia and China are concerned about Muslim separatist conflicts within their own borders. Moscow and Beijing have supported U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, and said they should have international support in their own efforts to crackdown on domestic terrorism.

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