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Afghanistan: Rival Factions Clash In North

Islamabad, 23 January 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) says forces loyal to General Abdul Rashid Dostum have seized a district in northern Afghanistan from rival troops. The Pakistan-based news agency reported that clashes erupted on 20 January over control of the Qale Zaal district northwest of Kondoz. Dostum's ethnic Uzbek fighters today forced out a rival ethnic Tajik faction loyal to Defense Minister Mohammad Fahim and former President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Both sides said the clashes were minor and claimed no casualties. But AIP said at least 11 fighters were killed in the first battles over the weekend.

Dostum's deputy Syed Noorullah told the AFP news service that the fighting is between minor local commanders and will have no impact on security in the rest of the country.

UN envoy to Afghanistan Francesc Vendrell said the incident shows a need to deploy international security forces outside of the capital Kabul.

Hamid Karzai, head of Kabul's interim government, arrived in Beijing today for talks with Chinese leaders.

Karzai made no comment after arriving from Tokyo following meetings with donors who promised more than $4.5 billion to start rebuilding the shattered country, $1.8 billion of which will be available for the first year.

In the official "China" daily, Beijing today promised to help build major infrastructure projects in Afghanistan. The newspaper said that China is also likely to help in mine-clearing operations in Afghanistan. In Tokyo, it promised $1 million to help fund the setting up of the interim government in Kabul.

A team of Chinese Foreign Ministry officials left Beijing for Kabul yesterday to finalize preparations for the reopening of the Chinese Embassy in Afghanistan early next month.