Tajik President Says No to Afghan Refugees
Tajikistan President Emomali Rakhmonov on Thursday re-affirmed that his impoverished countries would not accept any refugees from neighboring Afghanistan should the United States launch reprisal strikes there.
"Tajikistan is not ready to accept refugees from Afghanistan because our country has suffered through droughts and its economy is week following the [1992-97] civil war," a presidential spokesman quoted Rakhmonov as saying on his tour of the Afghan-Tajik border with Russia's Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo.
Rakhmonov added that the "situation on the Tajik-Afghan border remains stable."
The two officials inspected a detachment of the more than 11,000 Russian border guards posted along the river Piandj which separates the two countries.
Some 14,000 Afghan refugees are encamped on islets in the river, fleeing the fundamentalist Taliban who rule most of Afghanistan but prevented from entering Tajikistan, which only recently resolved its own civil war between Islamist rebels and a post-communist regime.
Rushailo held talks Wednesday with Rakhmonov at which he said the two countries were "coordinating their activities" in the fight against international terrorism.
Tajikistan, which shares a 1,200-kilometer border with Afghanistan, is concerned that US reprisal strikes on its southern neighbor for harboring Osama bin Laden, prime suspect in the September 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington, could trigger a massive influx of Afghan refugees.
However it backs the Afghan opposition Northern Alliance, which controls a sliver of territory bordering on Tajikistan and many of whose members are ethnic Tajiks.
Dushanbe has said it opposes the use of its territory to launch US strikes on Afghanistan, but said it will consult Moscow before making any final decision.
Russia has given no firm indication yet as to whether it will authorize the use of bases among its former Soviet allies by US troops -- DUSHANBE (AFP)
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)