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Afghan diplomats refute statements of russian press
"Observer" newspaper of Pakistan about allegedly emerged problems in mutual relations of Ashgabad and Kabul

ASHGABAT - "Sometimes Russian press peddles pure propaganda as news," said Nadir Zahir, deputy Ambassador of Afghanistan in Ashgabat.

He was referring to an article published in Russian newspaper "Vremya Novostei" on 13 September, which implies that Afghanistan is not seriously interested in Trans-Afghan pipeline project and relations between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan have deteriorated during past few weeks.

"Whenever any project that can help alleviate poverty and economic conditions in Afghanistan gets close to implementation stage, Russian press invariably begins churning out such baseless lies," explained Nadir Zahir.

He also added that "Afghanistan does not want to have any problem with either Turkmenistan or Pakistan and we would like to see this project moving on the fast track."

Trans-Afghan pipeline project (TAP) hopes to transport Turkmen natural gas to Pakistan and possibly India. The project was revived during a meeting of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan Presidents in Islamabad in May this year and nowadays being discussed in Kabul. It will open 12000 new jobs in Afghanistan and 10000 in Pakistan. It will also bring at least US $ 300 million to Afghanistan in annual transit fees.

Nazir Qasemi, Afghan Consul in Ashgabat, said, "this project will help strengthen brotherly relations between our three countries Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan."

Speaking of relations between Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, Nadir Zahir and Nazir Qasemi said, "Turkmenistan has always helped us and we don't want to have any problems with them."

They also stressed unanimously that Turkmenistan is fulfilling all its promises to Afghanistan and expressed gratitude to the government and people of Turkmenistan for this assistance.

"Turkmenistan has already started providing electricity to Mazar-e-Sharif, Andkhoi and Shibergan. Herat will soon be connected to Turkmen electricity network but there is no cable link at present between Turkmenistan and Herat. It will take about 6 months and work is going on to develop the infrastructure."

They also informed that 30 Afghan students would be joining higher educational institutes of Turkmenistan this year and next year the number may be raised to 100.

The both diplomats also stated that Pakistan is brotherly neighbor country of Afghanistan and they don't have any differences with Pakistan. "We have close brotherly relations with Pakistan," said both diplomats.

Official spokesman of President Niyazov, when contacted for comments on the Russian news story, said, "We would not like to dignify outright lies with any answer."

"However," he added, "the trilateral meeting of steering committee of Trans-Afghan Pipeline has begun in Kabul today and this is another proof that TAP is proceeding according to schedule and there is no difference of opinions between Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan."

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Tariq Saeedi "Observer", Pakistan, 17.09.2002

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