Taleban deny charges of aiding Chechen rebels
By Sayed Salahuddin
KABUL, May 23 (Reuters) - Afghanistan's ruling Taleban movement on Tuesday denied Russian charges that it backed and trained Islamic militants in the breakaway republic of Chechnya.
But a Foreign Ministry spokesman said the Taleban Islamic movement, which allowed the separatists to open their only world ``embassy'' in Kabul, would continue to give the militants diplomatic backing.
``We defend morally the righteous cause of the Chechens. The utterances by the Russian government are totally baseless,'' spokesman Faiz Ahmad Faiz told a news briefing.
The formula of words used was exactly the same as Pakistan employs to defend itself against charges that it arms and trains Moslem militants battling Indian rule of disputed Kashmir.
The spokesman was reacting to comments by a Russian government spokesman who accused the Taleban of supporting Chechen rebels and of providing training bases for ``mercenaries'' fighting alongside them.
The spokesman did not rule out the possibility of launching air strikes on areas of Afghanistan ruled by the Taleban where, he said, Chechen terrorists receive training.
NO TRAINING CAMPS
``Such comments are not new. The Russians were interfering in Afghanistan in the past and do it now, too. There are no training centres at all here. We have no resources to support the Chechens,'' Faiz said.
The Taleban, accused also by the United States of allowing terrorists to train on the soil it controls, is on the offensive against charges that it nurtures or turns a blind eye to the training of militants on its soil.
This month it denied it had given sanctuary to militant Sunni groups responsible for sectarian attacks against the Shi'ite minority in Pakistan, one of only three states that recognise the Taleban as a government.
Russia, which occupied Afghanistan for 10 years in the 1980s, backs anti-Taleban forces and views the Taleban as a danger for the stability of its former satellites in Central Asia.
Faiz said the reason for repeated Russian charges was to create tension and exert influence over Central Asia.
``These are all Russian excuses in order to fan chaos in the region. Russians should not repeat the bitter experience of the previous war,'' he said.
He brushed aside recent reports from Russia saying Taleban officials and Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden struck a deal with Chechen separatists to send Islamic warriors to Chechnya.
He said bin Laden, who lives under Taleban protection and is accused by Washington of terrorism, has neither the authority nor means to fight any government.
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