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Russia: Yeltsin Meets Foreign Minister To Discuss Afghanistan

Moscow, 2 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin held talks with his foreign minister, Yevgeny Primakov, today to discuss the recent victory of Taliban Islamic forces in Afghanistan.

Details of the meeting have not yet emerged, but Russian news agencies reported that Yeltsin has called a summit of Central Asian leaders later this week to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.

The Taliban captured the Afghan capital Kabul last week and threatened to impose strict Islamic law. They now control much of the country.

Itar Tass said the summit would be held in the Kazakh capital Almaty. Russia will be represented by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.

The move reflects growing concern in Russia about events in Afghanistan. Russia says it is particularly worried about the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan where it maintains a force of about 25,000 troops in support of the Tajik government

The border is the scene of frequent clashes between Russian troops and Tajik rebels based in Afghanistan.

Tajik deputy prime minister Abdurakhman Azizov today said that a worsening of the political and military situation in Afghanistan could exacerbate tensions on the Tajik-Afghan border. He said this, in turn, could lead to tensions in the entire Central Asian region.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan's Taliban militia appears to be backing away from a fight with a powerful northern warlord.

Tanks, heavy artillery and multiple launch Grad missiles of factional leader General Abdul Rashid Dostum are dug in at both ends of the strategically important Salang tunnel that links Kaabul with northern Afghanistan and the Central Asian republics. Western correspondents say Taliban forces are about four kilometers from the southern entrance to the tunnel.

The Taliban have called on Dostum, a former communist general whose Uzbek forces control six provinces in northern Afghanistan, not to stand in their way. Dostum says he will send envoys to Kabul for talks with Taliban leaders.

Taliban Acting Deputy Foreign Minister Sher Mohammed Stanakzai told reporters in Kabul today he has no quarrel with Dostum.

United Nations special envoy for Afghanistan, Norbert Holl, flew into Kabul for talks with Taliban leaders after meeting Dostum earlier today in the north. The U.N. is keen to avert a military confrontation between the Taliban and Dostum's forces.

Holl is due to meet Mullah Mohammad Rabbani, head of the six-man interim shura, or council, set up by the Islamic Taleban militia to govern the country after their takeover of the Afghan capital last Friday.

Meanwhile the Interfax news agency, quoting diplomatic sources, says Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will hold a summit in Almaty as early as Friday to discuss the Taliban militia's seizure of Kabul.