Russia supplies weapons to criminals

Reuters, July 27, 1998

WASHINGTON - The United States downplayed a report that Russia was supplying heavy weapons, training and logistical support to a rebel group in Afghanistan.

The New York Times said Russia was actively backing the Northern Alliance, a rebel group fighting the Taliban Islamic government, as well as factions controlled by former leaders of the Afghan mujahadeen, who fought the Soviet army in the 1980s.

State Department spokesman James Rubin said Washington was aware of support being provided to warring Afghan factions by outside powers.

But he said Russia was less of a problem in this regard than Iran and Pakistan.

"The concerns about possible transfers from Russia are far outweighed by concerns from other countries -- in particular, Pakistan and Iran,'' Rubin said.

While outside backers were helping perpetuate the conflict, they were not the main problem.

"The cause of the war there is primarily the refusal of the factions and groups to put the welfare of the people of Afghanistan over their own personal power, and not to stop the war that has devastated this country,'' he said.

"It is not the outside arms that we are concerned about that perpetuates the war primarily. It is the faction leaders themselves,'' said Rubin.

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