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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.