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Pak. abetting Taliban: Russian Minister

By Vladimir Radyuhin

MOSCOW SEPT. 14. A top Russian diplomat has accused sections of the Pakistani leadership of abetting the Taliban and attempting to play the Afghanistan card against India.

"Certain quarters in Pakistan, above all in the ISI, are clearly conniving at the Taliban regrouping in the free tribal territories in Pakistan and Afghanistan," the First Deputy Foreign Minister, Vyacheslav Trubnikov, said in an interview. He stressed that the Taliban could no longer be described as "remnants" of the once dominant force in Afghanistan, as they have regrouped and stepped up attacks on the international security forces and Government troops in Afghanistan.

Mr. Trubnikov, who co-chairs the Indo-Russian Joint Working Group on new global challenges (former JWG on Afghanistan), said Moscow was in touch with Washington and Islamabad to make the Pakistani leaders "consistently work to suppress the Taliban."

"We will continue to press Pakistan to fully implement its obligations as a member of the anti-terrorist coalition," the Russian Minister told Moscow-based correspondents of the Indian media. He warned against attempts to integrate "moderate" Taliban leaders into the Afghan Government.

"Some elements in Afghanistan's interim administration are talking about inducting `moderate' Taliban members in the Government structures. This only serves to nurture Taliban hopes of a comeback."

Mr. Trubnikov also denounced Pakistan's efforts to use Afghanistan in its game play against India. "There are forces in Pakistan who would like to turn Afghanistan into a staging area for counteracting India," he said citing such examples as Pakistani attempts to redraw its border with Afghanistan along the Durand line, block the opening of India's consulates in Jelalabad and Kandahar, and refusal to let through India-gifted trucks to Afghanistan.

While expressing confidence that India's long-standing ties with Afghanistan were strong enough to survive Pakistani intrigues, Mr. Trubnikov called on the United Nations to exercise stricter monitoring over compliance by all states, "above all Pakistan," with the U.N. declaration on good-neighbourly relations with Afghanistan.

The growing activity of the Pakistan-based Taliban and the Al-Qaeda are heightening Russian concerns over the safety of Pakistani nuclear weapons.

"The danger that Pakistani nuclear weapons may fall into the hands of terrorists is not just theoretical, considering the fact that powerful extremist groups are active in Pakistan," Mr. Trubnikov said. Speaking on the eve of the U.N. General Assembly, he said that the problem of Pakistani nukes should be dealt with in a broader international context through the U.N. and its Security Council anti-terrorist committee.

Russia has proposed a Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, which India is supporting, while Russia has thrown its support behind the India-moved Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. "It is the kind of cooperation that is aimed at preventing terrorists from gaining access to nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction," he said.

Asked about the chances of Pakistan joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which unites Russia, China and four Central Asian states, Mr. Trubnikov said Islamabad should first resolve its problems with India. "It is preferable that member-states do not have disputes between them. Therefore I am against artificial linkage for simultaneous admission of India and Pakistan to the SCO. Islamabad should respond to Delhi's peace initiatives, stop cross-border terrorism against India and eliminate the terrorist infrastructure on its territory," he added.

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