President: Tajik Borders with Afghanistan Must be Strengthened
Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov warned Thursday that his country's borders with Afghanistan must be urgently strengthened because of a growing threat from the fundamentalist Taliban movement.
Rakhmonov told defense ministers from 12 ex-Soviet republics that recent fighting between the ruling Taliban and opposition forces near Tajikistan's frontiers with war-torn Afghanistan posed a major danger.
"We must formulate a plan for joint actions by countries in the collective security accord in case of a direct threat from Afghanistan," he said.
Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan earlier this month signed a collective security agreement to bolster the fight against Islamic fundamentalism in the volatile region.
The countries are among 12 ex-Soviet nations grouped in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
"As long as the Taliban do not renounce their hostilities against our countries we will follow with great anxiety the events in Afghanistan which have worsened catastrophically recently," the Tajik president said.
"This situation is promoting extremist religious forces in Central Asia and other regions of the CIS," he added, saying that the Taliban offensive could prompt a massive refugee exodus into Central Asia.
Rakhmonov blasted Afghanistan as "the home of international terrorism and center of drug production."
The Taliban, which controls 90 percent of Afghan territory, is blamed for exporting drugs through Central Asia and harboring Islamic militants operating in the region.
Russian border guards stationed on Tajikistan's 1,500-kilometre (1,000-mile) frontier with war-torn Afghanistan report frequent clashes with Islamic insurgents and drug traffickers.
Ex-Soviet states share fears that the conflict in Afghanistan could spread into Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, which are considered the most volatile Central Asian nations -- DUSHANBE (AFP)
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