Russia worried about Afghanistan

April 19, 2012 at 2:38 PM
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BRUSSELS, April 19 (UPI) -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday there is no reason for the United States to maintain bases in Afghanistan once NATO troops withdraw.

Lavrov, in Brussels to attend the Russia-NATO Council, said Russian officials are also concerned about drug trafficking and terrorism in Afghanistan after the pullout, RIA Novosti reported.

"So long as the Afghan side is unable to provide security in the country, any artificial deadlines for troops' withdrawal do not seem quite correct," he said. "But when the U.N. Security Council mandate expires, there will be no reason for a foreign presence in Afghanistan and the region."

Lavrov declined to say whether his country would attend a NATO summit on Afghanistan to be held in Chicago. Relations between NATO and Moscow have soured over the alliance's European missile shield plans.

"I cannot understand why we are not invited to the regular meetings the experts and ambassadors hold here in Brussels, if we still present interest as a partner in the work on Afghanistan," Lavrov said.

He said Russia would consider the invitation and "give our answer soon."

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Thursday he would like Russia to join the May 20-21 talks where Afghanistan will top the agenda.

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