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Karzai Meets Putin to Discuss Afghanistan Rebuilding

The interim leader of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, met Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. The talks centered on rebuilding Afghanistan.

When the two men met, President Putin praised the Afghan leader and said Russia wants nothing more than an independent, prosperous Afghanistan that is friendly to Russia. Mr. Putin also told Hamid Karzai he was happy to meet the man who is taking responsibility for Afghanistan's destiny.

The Afghan leader thanked Mr. Putin and Russia for helping bring peace to Afghanistan.

During Tuesday's meeting, the two sides signed several agreements on delivering Russian aid to Afghanistan. In remarks to reporters afterward, President Putin said he and Mr. Karzai discussed a wide range of issues.

The Russian leader called on the world community to help rebuild Afghanistan, including its military forces, saying it was the only way to ensure security in the country. Mr. Putin added that, in this area, Russia could play an important role.

Mr. Putin also said Russia's know-how would be useful in clearing the country of mines, many of which are left over from the Soviet occupation during the 1980's. Russian media also reported that Mr. Putin said his government is prepared to invest $50 million in Afghanistan in the coming months. Russia is looking at ways to rebuild some of the facilities built during the Soviet occupation and destroyed during the war that ensued.

Russia was one of the main supporters of the U.S.-led war against terrorism in Afghanistan and sent humanitarian aid to the country after the Taleban regime was forced from power.

The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 only to withdraw its forces ten years later in what was viewed as a humiliating defeat for the Kremlin. Later, Russia became the military backer of the Northern Alliance, the main opposition group to the Taleban.

On Wednesday, Mr. Karzai concludes his three day visit to Moscow and is scheduled to travel on to Germany.