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Ex-Soviet States Pledge NATO Help On Afghanistan

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- A grouping of former Soviet states that controls a key land route from Europe to Afghanistan has agreed to offer "every kind" of help to NATO forces there, its head said.

The seven members of the Moscow-based Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) control a supply route that allows NATO to bypass Pakistan, where convoys are repeatedly attacked by Taliban militants.

"The united position of the [CSTO] is that we should give every kind of aid to the antiterror coalition operating in Afghanistan," Secretary-General Nikolai Bordyuzha told journalists at a briefing.

"The interests of NATO and the [CSTO] countries regarding Afghanistan conform unequivocally," he said.

CSTO members Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan have signed deals with NATO members to allow nonmilitary cargo to cross their territory en route to Afghanistan.

The CSTO, billed as a counterweight to NATO, also includes Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Unlike NATO, the CSTO does not allow military action beyond the borders of its member states.

Bordyuzha said he hoped ties between Russia and the United States -- and between NATO and the CSTO -- would improve under U.S. President Barack Obama.

But in a blow to NATO, CSTO member Kyrgyzstan has already said it will evict U.S. forces from its Manas air base, another staging post for U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan.

The CSTO wants to establish direct ties with NATO, but the United States and member states in Eastern Europe appear to have blocked the move, said Bordyuzha.