Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged more military assistance to Afghanistan's opposition Northern Alliance. His comments came after meeting in Tajikistan with the country's president and opponents of the ruling Taleban.
Mr. Putin said the Northern Alliance can count on Russia's political and military support. He also said Russia wants to help provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan. Mr. Putin said "it's common knowledge that Russia supports the legally elected government of Afghanistan. And," he said, "everyone knows the suffering of the Afghan people that followed after the territory fell into the hands of the Taleban."
Mr. Putin spoke after meeting Tajik President Emomali Rahmonov and Burhanuddin Rabbani, the man the international community considers the legitimate president of Afghanistan. Mr. Rabbani was ousted when the Taleban took control of Kabul in 1996.
Mr. Putin stopped in Dushanbe on his way back from Shanghai, where he held talks with President Bush following the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting. After that meeting the Russian leader said he stands by the decision to attack terrorist and Taleban targets in Afghanistan.
Mr. Putin said he is in complete agreement with Mr. Bush's position, adding that the American response to the September 11 terrorist attacks was measured and adequate to the threat confronting the United States. He said the consequences of those attacks are being felt around the world.
The Shanghai talks were the third meeting between the two men this year and their first face-to-face talks since September 11. They will meet again next month when Mr. Putin makes his first visit to the United States.