Russia to support US Afghan plan

ROME: Moscow is ready to support the new US strategy for the Afghanistan war by letting troops transit Russian territory and helping with training and economic projects, President Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday.

"We are ready to support these efforts, guarantee the transit (of troops), take part in economic projects and train police and the military," Medvedev said at a press conference with Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Moscow and Washington reached an agreement in July allowing the United States to launch up to 4,500 US flights a year over Russia, opening a major supply route for American operations in Afghanistan.

Previously Russia had only allowed the United States to ship non-lethal military supplies across its territory by train.

Medvedev added that he had been informed by Barack Obama of his intention to deploy another 30,000 troops in the war against the Taliban prior to the US president's announcement on Tuesday.

Moscow has said however it has no intention of sending troops to Afghanistan. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and withdrew 10 years later after a bitter conflict.

Medvedev said Russia was ready to continue work on Soviet-era economic projects and help to build the Afghan military and police -- a focus of a new US strategy to beat back the Taliban insurgency.

International peacekeeping operations to stabilise fragile Afghanistan were important, he said, but history had shown that only Afghans could build their country.

"All attempts to create a state through foreign methods will fail," he said. "That is how it was in the 20th century and I am sure it will be like that now."

Afghanistan's US and European allies play a vital peacekeeping role, he said. But, "only the government of Afghanistan can establish order in the country."

"I hope that (President Hamid) Karzai will work towards this," the Russian leader said.

Medvedev arrived late Wednesday for meetings with the Italian government. He is due to be received by Pope Benedict XVI later Thursday.