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    BERLIN, April 1, 2004 (RIA Novosti) - Russia welcomes the declaration on the fight against drugs that Afghanistan and its neighboring countries agreed to, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

    He said that the declaration is an important step in suppressing the threat coming from Afghanistan.

    "It [the declaration] advances the international community's efforts in the struggle against drug trafficking from Afghanistan and supports Russia's good neighbor initiative between Afghanistan and the neighboring countries," Mr. Lavrov said.

    On Thursday, China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan signed a declaration on countering drug exports and jointly guarding their borders.

    Mr. Lavrov also noted that the decision to hold presidential and parliamentary elections simultaneously is important to maintain the ethnic balance in the country.

    "It is a complex process," the minister said. "Afghanistan is the multiethnic state and it is necessary to make it so no ethnic group feels restrained." According to him, this factor should be taken into account in the forming of the Afghan Armed Forces and the law enforcement bodies.

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