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Russia: Putin, Karzai Pledge New Era In Relations

Moscow, 12 March 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin and Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai pledged to consolidate a new era of friendly relations during a meeting in Moscow today. In a clear reference to the 1979-89 Soviet-Afghan conflict, Putin said that relations have been through "various times." But he said Russia wants to see Afghanistan as an "independent, flourishing, friendly state."

"There have been different times in our bilateral relations [between Russia and Afghanistan] in history, but we are neighbors, and I think it is our duty to build our relations, on the highest level, for the good of both peoples," Putin said.

He added that "The Russian Federation provided significant support to the Northern Alliance in its fight against terrorism, and we also think that Afghanistan needs such help from the international community today, but this support, particularly in the military field, should be carried out through the central government (of Afghanistan)."

Karzai said Russia played a "great role" in helping establish the new administration in Afghanistan after the ouster of the Taliban regime.

Earlier today, Karzai met with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to sign a series of agreements aimed mainly at rebuilding Afghanistan's shattered infrastructure.

Karzai and Afghanistan's interim foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, arrived in Moscow yesterday for a three-day visit.