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Afghans get no arms from us, Russia says

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Russia denied it was supplying weapons to opposition fighters in Afghanistan and suggested Tuesday that most of the arms going to the ruling Taliban movement were from Pakistan.

Afghanistan has been at war for two decades, and both the Taliban movement and the opposition appear to have inexhaustible supplies of weapons. No outside country acknowledges supplying the arms.The New York Times, citing unidentified U.S. officials, reported Monday that Russia had become a major weapons supplier to the Afghan factions opposing the Taliban.

Russian officials denied the accusations Tuesday, as they have in the past. However, some Russian analysts said they had no doubt Moscow was providing assistance - and that it was going to the very groups that fought the Soviet army when it intervened in Afghanistan from 1979-89.

"It's a long-standing fact that Russia is helping the anti-Taliban alliance," said Pavel Felgenhauer, a military analyst for the liberal daily Segodnya.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said an international arms embargo against Afghanistan would prove futile because it was "virtually impossible to establish an effective control over the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Pakistan is sympathetic to the Taliban, an Islamic movement. Many countries have said that Pakistan supplies weapons to the Taliban, although Pakistan denies it.

Russia opposes the Taliban because it fears the spread of its harsh version of Islamic law into the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.

If Russia is providing help to Afghan factions, it would not be a new development.

In 1995, the Taliban forced down a Russian cargo plane that was taking weapons to the Afghan factions that then controlled the capital, Kabul.

The Taliban drove the factions out of Kabul in 1996 and imposed its rule over 85 percent of Afghanistan. Their rivals have retreated to the northern part of the country.

The Russians have repeatedly voiced concern that Taliban-style movements could spread into Central Asia. For years, Russia has stationed 25,000 troops along Tajikistan's mountainous frontier with Afghanistan. The Russian soldiers helped Tajikistan's hard-line government in its war with Islamic rebels.

The war formally ended last year, but the Russian troops remain to prevent drugs, weapons and militants from entering from Afghanistan.