23 September AFP

India, Russia, Iran plan to jointly boost anti-Taliban forces

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India, Russia and Iran are actively holding talks on ways to jointly back the opposition Northern Alliance forces against the ruling Taliban regime in Afghanistan, a report said Sunday.

"The three countries are keen on jointly promoting the Northern Alliance, which is battling the Taliban, chief benefactor of international terrorism, headquarted in Afghanistan," the Hindu newspaper said, citing highly-placed Indian government sources.

Ahmad Shah Masood, leader of the Northern Alliance, died in an explosion on September 9 allegedly caused by terrorists posing as Arab journalists. His death came days before the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11.

The prime suspect for the attacks on New York and Washington is Osama bin Laden, who is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan as a guest of the Taliban. India does not recognise the Taliban regime, but sees ousted Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, whom Masood served as defence minister, as the legitimate government.

The Hindu daily said India, Russia and Iran "feel that a revived Northern Alliance, backed by a US-led coalition, should spearhead a military assault in Taliban strongholds in Kandahar, Kabul and Jalalabad."

It added that these three countries feel that forming a strong alternative govenment in Afghanistan, would not only be central in rooting out international terrorism, but also protect their own interests.

India has offered unconditional support to the US in its efforts to build a global coalition against international terrorism. India extends diplomatic accreditation to the ousted government of Rabbani and permits its mission in New Delhi to function as embassy here.

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