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Russian Foreign Minister Pledges Support to Afghanistan - 2002-02-04

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov held talks in the Afghan capital, Kabul, Monday, during a brief visit designed to show Russia's support for the new interim government, and to offer Russian help to rebuild the country.

Mr. Ivanov held talks here with interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai and other government officials.

It was the first visit to Afghanistan by such a senior Russian official since the fall of the Taleban a few months ago. Russia lent support to the anti-Taleban Northern Alliance in the past, and has now offered its support to the newly installed interim government.

Unlike many other nations, Russia did not pledge a specific sum of money at last month's Afghanistan donor's conference in Tokyo. Instead, Moscow is offering personnel and expertise in such areas as landmine removal, construction and medical care.

Russia has sent experts to set up a hospital in Kabul, and sent teams last month to help clear the Salang Tunnel, an important route through the mountains, to connect Kabul to the north of the country.

But Russian assistance is viewed by many Afghans with a certain wariness. Soviet troops invaded and occupied Afghanistan in 1979, and they fought a costly and bloody guerrilla war here, until they withdrew ten years later.

Mr. Ivanov's visit is seen as signaling a restoration of normal ties between the two countries.