Afghanistan wants 'good relations' with Russia

1st November 2010, Comments 0 comments

The Afghan government wants to expand ties with Moscow in the fight against drugs despite Hamid Karzai's fury over a joint US-Russia drugs raid, the president's spokesman said Monday.

Four "Russian agents" took part in a raid on drug-processing laboratories last week in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, in the first known joint US-Russian counter-narcotics operation in the country.

Karzai released a statement at the weekend angrily condemning the action, saying it was a violation of Afghan sovereignty and had taken place without permission of his government.

His reaction prompted perplexed comments from Russian officials, who pointed to a bilateral anti-narcotics agreement, as Afghanistan produces 90 percent of the world's opium and Russia loses tens of thousands of people to drugs each year.

Karzai's spokesman Waheed Omer confirmed that agreement existed but said there was no accord allowing Russian military personnel to operate in Afghanistan.

"Deploying four Russian agents in a military operation inside Afghanistan by NATO... violates the sovereignty of Afghanistan," he said.

"We want good relations with Russia as two countries with extraordinary vulnerability to narcotics. We hope to have further cooperation with the Russians regarding narcotics according to the bilateral agreement."

Russia's involvement in Afghanistan is a sensitive issue following the Soviet Union's 10-year war in the country, which began with invasion in 1979.

© 2010 AFP

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