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Critical Aid Route to Afghanistan Opens - 2001-12-09


Uzbekistan has agreed to re-opened a crucial bridge to Afghanistan to speed the flow of relief supplies to the war-torn country.

The so-called Friendship Bridge across the Amu River is the only landlink between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. It had been closed for five years since the Taleban took control of northeast Afghanistan.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov made the announcement after talks with visiting U-S Secretary of State Colin Powell in Tashkent. Mr. Powell says the re-opening will considerably ease the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

International aid workers also welcomed the news, saying millions of people in northern Afghanistan are facing winter cold, hunger and disease.

In neighboring Tajikistan, officials say a key river crossing into Afghanistan will be re-opened to humanitarian aid convoys Sunday.

Meanwhile, scuffles erupted Saturday in the Afghan capital, Kabul, as the U-N World Food Program began distributing food to more than three-quarters of the city's population.

In the United States, President Bush said 10-thousand relief packets for Afghan children being shipped Sunday from American children demonstrate that although the United States is attacking the Taleban, it is not at war with the Afghan people.

Secretary Powell traveled from Uzbekistan to the Kazakhstan Saturday ahead of Sunday's talks with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on security and economic issues.

Later Sunday, Mr. Powell heads to Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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