Northern Alliance Awaiting Weapons From Iran, Russia

The anti-Taliban alliance in northern Afghanistan is coordinating its offensive with the United States and expects to receive fresh supplies of weapons soon from Iran and Russia, a spokesman said Wednesday.

The spokesman, who goes by the single name Abdullah, said representatives of the United States and the northern alliance have been having "regular and daily meetings" outside Afghanistan. He also expressed readiness to meet with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who is expected in neighboring Uzbekistan at the end of the week.

"If Rumsfeld is in one of the neighboring countries, it is possible to have a meeting with him," Abdullah said.

At the Pentagon, spokesman Bryan G. Whitman declined to give any details on who Rumsfeld will meet on his trip to four mostly Muslim nations in the Middle East and Asia.

The United States has been building up its forces around Afghanistan, where the ruling Taliban are sheltering Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 terror attacks on Washington and New York.

The United States has warned the Taliban to hand over bin Laden or face the consequences. The Afghan opposition, known as the northern alliance, is hoping for U.S. strikes that would help in its struggle against the Taliban.

Afghan opposition representatives and U.S. officials have discussed "all aspects" of cooperation in their latest meetings and the "results were good," Abdullah said. He did not say where the meetings took place.

Asked what the talks were about specifically, Abdullah replied, "coordination of efforts to eradicate terrorism."

Rumsfeld has said intelligence will be crucial in the anti-terror campaign. Abdullah said the northern alliance knew exactly where Osama bin Laden was hiding and that a U.S.-led attack would take place in "a matter of days."

Abdullah further said the alliance was expecting fresh arms and equipment soon from Iran and Russia, two of its strongest allies in the fight against the Taliban. Both have said they will increase military supplies to the Afghan opposition.

"The Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran have been supportive in the past and have confirmed their commitments," Abdullah said.

Asked what the opposition needs, Abdullah replied: "It's a war and we need everything that is needed in a war." He said the northern alliance expected unconditional support from nations that agree to help.

The northern alliance uses Soviet-era weaponry and therefore Russia is the logical primary supplier of ammunition, spare parts and replacement weaponry.

Abdullah said opposition forces desperately needs humanitarian aid as well.

"There is a big influx of refugees from Taliban-controlled areas and if we don't receive humanitarian aid in the coming days it will be difficult for them to survive once the winter sets in," Abdullah said.

The weather in Afghanistan is expected to turn cold in coming weeks, with rain and snow likely in much of the country.

Opposition forces regularly exchange fire with Taliban fighters in the region around Jabal-us-Saraj, north of Kabul. Much further north, Russian border guards in Tajikistan reported fighting inside Afghanistan between Taliban forces and opposition fighters about 120 miles south of Dushanbe, the Tajik capital.

Muhamad Salekh Registani, the military attache of the northern alliance's embassy in Dushanbe, said the opposition expected a Taliban offensive to begin soon in Takhar province, which borders Tajikistan. The northern alliance needs to hold onto the border regions to keep open the flow of arms and humanitarian aid from Tajikistan.

In addition to refugees fleeing Taliban-controlled areas, Abdullah reported large-scale defections from Taliban forces to the northern alliance.

With regard to the fate of the Afghan capital Kabul, Abdullah reiterated earlier opposition assertions that taking the city was not their primary goal.

He said he believed that a popular uprising in the city might take place against the Taliban.

However, he indicated that he expected the Taliban to be overthrown and said that when the northern alliance takes control of Afghanistan it intends to try the Taliban for war crimes. He also said the opposition would not object to having Taliban leaders delivered to an international war crimes tribunal and tried outside of Afghanistan.