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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Northern Alliance to Get Old Arms

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Thursday that Afghanistan's opposition forces fighting the ruling Taliban only want the rugged, Soviet-era weapons they know and like best, and urged the West to share the cost of their delivery.

Ivanov, speaking in Brussels where he was attending a meeting of NATO defense ministers, said Moscow would provide the anti-Taliban forces with the same weapons they already have.

"The Northern Alliance only loves Soviet-made weapons," Ivanov said, according to Interfax and Itar-Tass. "It knows how to handle them how and says it doesn't need any other weapons, even more modern Russian ones."

Afghan fighters learned how to use Soviet-made weapons during the failed 1979-1989 Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, seizing some of them in battles and inheriting larger arsenals after the Soviet troops' retreat.

President Vladimir Putin said earlier this week that Russia was prepared to supply opposition forces with weapons.

"The Afghans say that the Kalashnikov is the most rugged rifle in the world," and they want more T-55 tanks, which date back to the 1950s, as well as old-style armored personnel carriers and artillery systems, Ivanov said. "All these are simple but reliable weapons that can withstand sharp changes of temperatures and humidity."

Ivanov said that Russia carries the "main workload" in supporting the Afghan opposition and said that Moscow "wouldn't object if other countries concerned, whose number is growing recently, give us material assistance."

Later Thursday, Ivanov said U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, also in Brussels, gave him some evidence of Osama bin Laden's role in the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States. Ivanov wouldn't elaborate, saying the information was confidential.

Ivanov said Russia had been providing intelligence information to the United States about terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere and expects Washington to offer some data in exchange on rebels in Chechnya and other issues which are of interest to Moscow.

"Naturally, it must not be a one-way street," Ivanov said.

Wolfowitz said his private discussion on the fringes of the NATO meeting with Ivanov was almost entirely about counter-terrorism efforts "and clearly they [the Russians] were ready to offer all kinds of help, advice, cooperation."

He said possible joint NATO-Russian operations is "ahead of where we are, but it's certainly not closed."

Moscow perceives terrorists in Afghanistan as threatening Central Asia and thereby posing a threat to Russia, Wolfowitz said. "I think they see real opportunity to work with us in dealing with something that threatens them as well. I think they also see an opportunity to work with us period," he said.

Because terrorism is a "common interest it's not something where one side should expect to get paid for the cooperation of the other side," he added, apparently ruling out trade-off deals with Moscow that have been rumored.

( AP, Reuters)