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Afghan, Russian Foreign Ministers Discuss Security Issues - 2002-11-30

In Moscow, Afghanistan's foreign minister, Abdullah, and his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, have held talks focused on security issues, as Afghanistan struggles to recover from decades of war and instability.

The two foreign ministers say they agreed on the need to continue anti-terrorist military operations in Afghanistan, which began with the ouster of the fundamentalist Taleban last year.

Mr. Ivanov cautioned that the situation in Afghanistan is far from stable, and that remnants of the Taleban and the terrorist al-Qaida network remain a threat.

For his part, Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah said the world must also focus attention on rebuilding his country, which has been shattered by decades of war.

Russia has been providing economic and food aid to Afghanistan during the past year, and Mr. Ivanov said Moscow is prepared to increase that help.

The two men also spent much of their time discussing the growing problem of illegal drug smuggling.

Experts say Afghanistan is the source of up to 70 percent of the world's heroin, which is primarily smuggled into neighboring central Asian states through Russia and on to Western Europe.

Mr. Abdullah said his government recognizes the problem, but has been unable on its own to stop the production of opium poppies, or halt cross-border trafficking.

He said poppy farmers must be provided with incentives to plant other crops, and that more money is needed to boost police patrols along Afghanistan's porous border.

Mr. Abdullah says the Afghan government has proposed setting up an international anti-drugs center in Afghanistan, perhaps under the auspices of the United Nations.