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Chechnya's lone embassy awaits ambassador
03:44 a.m. Jan 24, 2000 Eastern

By Scott McDonald

KABUL, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Chechnya's only embassy in the world is tucked away behind a chipped brown door across from a shop selling fake flowers in Afghanistan's war-torn capital Kabul.

The compound was locked on Monday, a day after a delegation visiting Kabul from the breakaway Russian republic inaugurated the building, with a sticker glued to the door saying: ``Opening this door without Foreign Ministry permission is not allowed.''

The announcement by the delegation's leader, Zalim Khan Andarbyev, came less than two weeks after Afghanistan's ruling Taleban became the first and the only government so far to recognise Chechnya.

``There is no time limit,'' a Taleban Foreign Ministry official said on Monday when asked when the embassy would open.

``We don't know when they will open it for official purposes. It will open as soon as an ambassador is sent from Chechnya,'' the official said.

The Taleban said they would offer ``all possible'' assistance to the Chechens in their fight with Moscow, but did not say what this would be.

The Taleban also said they wanted to open an embassy in Grozny -- scene currently of heavy fighting between Russian troops and Chechen rebel forces -- ``as soon as the situation returns to normal.''

Deputy Foreign Minister Abdur Rahman Zahid told the embassy opening ceremony he admired the Chechen resistance against Russian soldiers, and called on the Moslem world to help them in their struggle.

The only other signs on Monday that the building on one of Kabul's two main shopping streets was about to become an embassy were shouts of ``Chechens, Chechens'' by a group of children begging on the street.

ONLY TWO EMBASSIES IN KABUL

When the Chechens do move in, they will have only the second functioning embassy in Kabul.

The Taleban, who swept to power three years ago, are fighting themselves for international acceptance and they are recognised by only three countries -- Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Only Pakistan has a functioning embassy, Saudi Arabia sends diplomats on occasional trips to Kabul while diplomats from the UAE do not visit.

The Chechen embassy is on Flower Street, so named because of shops which sell fake flowers in the winter and real ones in summer.

There are also carpet dealers nearby, and several had their carpets on the street near the embassy so cars can drive over them to provide an ``aged'' look.

Immediately to one side is a residence housing aid workers from the organisation Save the Children.



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