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Russia, France Discuss Future Afghan Government - 2001-10-23

Russia is renewing its call for a broad based, multi-ethnic future government in Afghanistan. Afghanistan's future and the global war on terrorism were discussed in Moscow with visiting French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters that Russia and France agree on the need for a broad-based government in Afghanistan.

Mr. Ivanov says such a government must have international backing, and may no longer serve as a haven for terrorists. He did not outline what specific groups should make up this future government.

The United States also agrees that a future Afghan government must have a broad ethnic base. But the United States has said such a government could include moderate members of the ruling Taleban. Moscow opposes including the Taleban in any future Afghan government.

After meeting Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said terrorism is a threat to all civilizations and must be fought wherever it is found including in Chechnya.

Russia has long insisted that its war against separatist rebels in the breakaway Chechen republic is a fight against terrorism. Russian troops have been accused of repeated gross human rights violations in Chechnya.

Mr. Jospin called for human rights to be respected and civilian casualties to be avoided, but the French leader's comments were seen as somewhat softer and less critical than past comments by foreign leaders.

In an interview scheduled for broadcast on Russian television, Mr. Jospin said existing Cold War arms treaties remain essential for global stability, but said some of them could be changed. That was a reference to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, which the United States wants to change in order to build a national missile defense shield. Russia opposes that plan, but has left the door open for discussion.

Foreign Minister Ivanov also met with OSCE Chairman Mircea Geoana, who said the OSCE, which includes NATO countries and Russia, must take a leading role in the long-term fight against terrorism.