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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ivanov Drops by Kabul With a Pledge

ReutersIgor Ivanov, center, preparing to leave Kabul's airport after his one-day visit Monday.
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov promised Monday that Russia would help rebuild Afghanistan, saying in return he had won a promise from the interim administration not to harbor terrorists or drug traffickers.

Ivanov, in Afghanistan for one day of talks, said Moscow had played a key role in helping to oust the Taliban and install the interim government and would not shirk from its responsibilities to a country it forcefully occupied for a decade ending in 1989.

"Without the role of Russia, the results would have been different," Ivanov, who arrived in Kabul earlier Monday, told reporters shortly before leaving. "We plan to play an active role in rebuilding, we will try to reconstruct some of the facilities built by the Soviet Union, mainly in energy and other facilities."

Ivanov, the most senior Russian official to visit Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, held talks with interim leader Hamid Karzai, Defense Minister Muhammad Fahim and Interior Minister Yunus Qanuni.

"Mr. Karzai promised that there will be no more support for terrorism and drug trafficking from the territory of Afghanistan," Ivanov said.

Moscow has been fighting separatists in Chechnya who it says are backed by the Taliban. Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan have been major transit points for Afghan-grown opium -- source of more than 90 percent of the world's heroin.

Ivanov said Karzai had accepted an offer to visit Moscow in early March to further boost relations.

Russia for years armed the Northern Alliance rebels who now have a big say in the six-month interim government.

Ivanov is the latest senior foreign official to visit Afghanistan in the wake of the defeat of the former Taliban rulers in December after a campaign by U.S. bombers and Russia-backed opposition fighters.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell visited the Kabul last month in a gesture of support for the interim administration. British Prime Minister Tony Blair also visited recently.

Moscow had a checkered relationship with Afghanistan even after the withdrawal of Soviet forces that ended a disastrous 10-year occupation.

Russia pulled its diplomats out of Kabul after the Taliban killed former pro-Moscow leader Najibullah in 1996, but it was among the first powers to reopen its embassy after the Taliban had been driven out of Kabul in mid-November.

On Monday, Ivanov also visited the Russian Embassy, accompanied by a phalanx of Russian bodyguards, many dressed in traditional flat Afghan pakool hats.

Before heading for Kabul, Ivanov met Monday with Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes in New Delhi to discuss greater defense cooperation, an Indian defense official said.

"More substantive discussions on defense, including arms purchases, will be held on Wednesday when Russian Deputy Prime Minister [Ilya] Klebanov meets Fernandes," the official said.

The meeting between Fernandes and Klebanov -- who arrives in New Delhi on Tuesday -- could include talks over the leasing of nuclear submarines from Russia to India as well as the delivery of a refurbished Russian aircraft carrier to the expanding Indian navy, the world's seventh largest.

Russia, a traditional ally of New Delhi, is the largest supplier of arms to India and has provided it with modern warships, fighter aircraft and latest tanks.