Laman Webantu   KM2: 6573 File Size: 2.1 Kb *

| KM2 Index |

AP: Group Wants Afghanistan Free of Foreign Influence
By Joe McDonald

9/1/2002 12:43 am Wed

Monday January 7 12:28 PM ET

Group Discusses Future of Afghanistan

By JOE McDONALD, Associated Press Writer

BEIJING (AP) - Asserting its right to a leading role in Central Asia, a six-nation group led by China and Russia said Monday it wants Afghanistan free of foreign influence.

A statement by a meeting of foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a group set up in part to fight Islamic militancy, welcomed the end of the Taliban government. But it said outside attempts to influence Afghan affairs would lead to a new crisis for the region.

``The situation in the region should be decided by the countries themselves,'' said Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov of Russia. The other members are Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Monday's statement didn't single out any foreign government.

China has supported the U.S.-led anti-terror campaign, but is uneasy about the American military presence in the region. Beijing has called for an early end to military action in Afghanistan.

Other members regard Pakistan as a rival for influence after the fall of the Taliban, which it long supported.

Smaller members of the group have mixed sentiments about a U.S. presence, some hoping it will offset domination by their huge neighbors. Uzbekistan has allowed American troops on its territory, while Kyrgyzstan agreed to let Washington use one of its airfields.

The statement Monday called for a ``peaceful, neutral'' Afghanistan and warned against ``any kind of administration forced on Afghanistan, or a scheme to influence it.''

Such efforts, it said, would lead to a ``new crisis for Afghanistan and the surrounding region.''

The Shanghai Cooperation Group was formed in 1996 to fight terrorism, separatism and extremism.