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Russia demands more sanctions against Taliban

By AAMIR SHAH

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 9 -- Russia said Wednesday it was not willing to hold talks with the Taliban and instead urged the international community to tighten sanctions against the ruling Afghan militia.

The Russian statement contrasts sharply with those from other former Soviet republics. At least three of them said this week they were ready to engage the Taliban into peace talks if they soften their stance.

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"There is no question of Russia opening talks in the near future with the dominant Taliban movement in Afghanistan," said Sergey Ivanov, the Russian president's senior security adviser. "Russia's position is as it always has been."

Ivanov, an increasingly influential figure in the Putin administration, told the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, "There is no question of opening talks with the Taliban."

The comments, published prominently in the Pakistani newspapers, annoyed the Taliban and a spokesman for the religious militia urged the Russians to$?'stop meddling in Afghanistan's internal affairs." He said Moscow should not$?'forget the lesson it learned during its occupation of Afghanistan (1979 to 1989). We do not like Russian interference."

Ivanov also urged the international community to$?'step up its sanctions against the Taliban regime, punishing those who provide it with financial and military aid," an obvious reference to Pakistan, one of the three countries that recognize the Taliban regime in Kabul. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the other two.

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Neutral observers accuse Pakistan of providing military and economic support to the Taliban and say that Iran, Russia and some Central Asian republics provide similar assistance to the opposition Northern Alliance of Afghanistan. All these nations, who neighbor Afghanistan, deny the charges.

Pakistan defends recognizing the Taliban regime because, it says, the militia has brought order to Afghanistan. But Ivanov ridiculed the idea, saying that all the Taliban had brought was "an increase in drug production and a return to the Middle Ages."

He urged the Taliban to open a dialogue with former Afghan Burhanuddin Rabbani, still recognized by some countries as the legal ruler of Afghanistan, "to form a coalition government."

Ivanov's hard line contrasts sharply with recent statements by political leaders in Central Asia.

Pakistani military leader Gen. Musharraf visited Kazakhstan this week where he discussed the Afghan situation with the Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Kazakhstan and other Central Asian republics, who have large Muslim populations, fear that the Taliban would export its radical brand of Islam if it consolidates its position in Afghanistan.

But the talks between Musharraf and Nazarbayev appeared to soften Kazakhstan's stance to the Taliban considerably, moving closer to the position of his neighbors, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

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Nazarbayev said the Taliban were likely to dominate any future Afghan government and he was ready for talks with them.

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