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Turkmenistan: Afghan Provinces Declare Neutrality In Conflict

Peshawar, 29 August 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Four Afghan provinces near the border with Pakistan have declared neutrality in the conflict between Kabul's government and the Islamist Taleban militia, says Afghanistan's government.

The Eastern Provincial Council, which represents the provinces of Nangarhar, Laghman, Kunar and Nuristan, yesterday was quoted as assuring a government delegation that the Council will join neither side in the conflict and will act to prevent use of its territory for attacks by either side.

There have been recent clashes reported in the region. Last week, a stronghold of forces loyal to Afghanistan's Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar fell to Taleban forces.

Iran has announced a conference on Afghanistan to be held in Teheran October 29 to 30. Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister, Alaeddin Borujerdi, who is ending a three-day visit to Pakistan, yesterday told reporters in Peshawar that foreign ministers of all Afghanistan's neighbors -- Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan -- are invited, along with representatives of the Kabul government.

Meanwhile, after a series of postponements, the main road between Kabul and Central Asia -- the Salang highway -- is scheduled to re-open today. The road has been closed for nearly three years. It was controlled by anti-government faction leader General Rashid Dostum, who reached agreement with the government last week on re-opening the road.