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    RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINSTER DISCUSS IN BERLIN SITUATION IN AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ

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    MOSCOW, April 1, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - In the context of the international conference on Afghanistan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met on Wednesday with special adviser of the UN Secretary General for political affairs, Lakhdar Brahimi, who for a long time was the UN Secretary General's special envoy on Afghanistan, the information and press department of the Russian Foreign Ministry reported.

    "During the negotiations, the sides discussed questions connected with carrying out measures within the framework of the transitory process in Afghanistan and also the situation around the Iraqi settlement," the information department's report says.

    The sides pointed out the importance of increasing the central coordinating role of the United Nations in the Afghan affairs at the important stage of the completion of the transitory period in that country, which was determined by the Bonn agreement of December 2001 (immediately after the collapse of the fundamentalists' regime as a result of the anti-terrorist operation against the Taliban movement).

    As far as priorities are concerned, including in the context of cooperation between Russia and the United Nations, the sides pointed out a reliable ensuring of security in Afghanistan, especially at the stage of the preparations for the elections (it is planned to hold simultaneous parliamentary and presidential elections in June, or at least in August-September, this year), support of the Hamid Karzai interim government and an effective and full neutralisation of terrorist and drug danger.

    Touching upon the Iraqi problem, Sergei Lavrov and Lakhdar Brahimi expressed a common opinion that the future elections must be thoroughly prepared under the aegis of the United Nations.

    "At the same time, they believe, for a full return of the United Nations Organisation to Iraq it is necessary to create appropriate conditions, most of all in the sphere of security, and to clearly outline the end of the occupation and the beginning of a new period in the settlement process," the report of the information and press department says.

    This Thursday Afghanistan signed in Berlin a treaty on joint fight against smuggling drugs with all its six neighbour countries: China, Iran, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

    As Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Dr. Abdullah said at the conference on Afghanistan, the fight against smuggling drugs is a priority task of the Afghan government. According to the minister, the signing of the treaty means "a tremendous step forward" in the fight against the smuggle of drugs in the region.

    According to the UN estimates, in 2003 the production of raw opium in Afghanistan amounted to 360 tons in a heroin equivalent, and the annual foreign trade of the Afghan drug industry tops 30 billion dollars.

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