World Bulletin/News Desk
Russia extended its military presence in Tajikistan for 30 years on Friday.
The countries' defence ministers signed an agreement prolonging Russia's lease on a base in the former Soviet republic until 2042 during a visit by President Vladimir Putin.
The lease had previously been due to expire on Jan. 1, 2014, the same year most foreign combat troops are due to leave Afghanistan, which shares a long, mountainous and porous border with Tajikistan.
More than 6,000 soldiers stationed across three towns in Tajikistan comprise Russia's Base 201, the Kremlin's biggest troop deployment abroad.
Addressing soldiers and officers at the base, Putin aired familiar complaints about NATO, saying Russia was concerned about expansion of infrastructure of the alliance, which now includes several former Soviet satellites.
"I believe (NATO) is to a large degree a throwback of the Cold War," Putin said. But he suggested the alliance could be a positive force as long as it does not try to usurp the power of the U.N. Security Council, where Russia has veto power.
"To some degree, under certain circumstances, if it acts on a mandate of U.N. Security Council, NATO can play a positive role," Putin said.
"We will develop our relationship with this organisation."
Putin also signed a deal last month to extend Russia's lease on an air base in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan through 2032.
"Together with the base at Kant in Kyrgyzstan, the base in Tajikistan will serve the interests of Russia," Putin told the troops at Base 201.
Hundreds of spectators watched his motorcade sweep through the streets of Dushanbe to the base on the outskirts of the capital. Buildings were decorated with Tajik and Russian flags.
Putin has sought to boost the Kremlin's presence in Central Asia, where the United States and China are also vying for influence, by providing political support to its authoritarian leaders and offering lucrative economic deals.
His visit produced a package of agreements that could bolster Tajikistan's economy, including one providing better terms for Tajik migrant workers in Russia.
Around 1.1 million Tajiks, one-seventh of the country's population, reside in Russia and the wages they send home account for half the country's GDP.
Other deals pledged cooperation building hydropower facilities and removed import duties on Russian light oil products used in Tajikistan.
Putin's foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov said Russia would pay a symbolic sum to extend the lease on the base.
Tajikistan, the poorest of 15 former Soviet republics, initially wanted Russia to pay full price but Russia declined, saying Tajikistan needed its protection after the NATO pullout.
"We need this base, and Tajikistan needs it," Ushakov said.
Russian military and economic support is particularly important to Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon, whose rule has been undermined by chronic poverty and sporadic outbreaks of violence.
In a joint statement, Putin and Rakhmon said they considered "stopping the threat of terrorism and drug trafficking from the territory of Afghanistan as one of their priorities in efforts to maintain regional stability".
Rakhmon, former head of a Soviet cotton farm, turned 60 on Friday, two days before Putin reaches the same milestone. Putin presented Rakhmon with a Russian-made sniper rifle as a gift.
In power for 20 years, the Tajik president will seek another seven-year term in a November 2013 election.
"It's important to Rakhmon to remain in power in 2013, and the Kremlin's support will be decisive," said Zafar Abdullayev, a Dushanbe-based political analyst.
The disturbances were the latest to rock the northern province of Al-Hoceima since the death of a local fishmonger in a garbage truck last October sparked nationwide protests.
The meeting on Tuesday night comes ahead of Abbas's expected visit to the White House in April and after Trump adviser Jason Greenblatt held wide-ranging talks in Israel and the Palestinian territories earlier this month.
Tim Barrow, wearing a waistcoat and dark suit and carrying a leather briefcase, left Britain's EU embassy in Brussels and stepped into a dark Jaguar car.
Manuel Valls says his first-round backing for independent Emmanuel Macron is to block far-right leader Marine Le Pen
Ahmed Kathrada had openly criticised the current African National Congress (ANC) government of Zuma, which has been accused of corruption, mismanagement and of failing black South Africans.
Michael Cummings reverted to Islam after Trump's election, read his journey to Islam.
West Siberian oil is the bedrock of Russia's economy -- the Khanty-Mansi region produced about 240 million tonnes in 2016, over 40 percent of the country's total production.
Over 100,000 people call for First Lady to foot security bill or move to Washington
The new Trump wall has not only divided the US but it has raised fears that it will divide a Native American tribe
The annual NATO foreign ministers talks in Brussels were brought forward at the last minute after Tillerson warned he would not be able to attend on the long-planned date.
Theresa May has signed the Article 50 letter to trigger Brexit of which the letter is expected to offer some room for manoeuvre in negotiations.
Workers ambushed by gunman on way to build youth centers
Devin Nunes says he will not stand down over alleged ties to White House as committee probes Russia links
Several senators have framed Montenegro's accession as nothing less than a test of resolve against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The British-born wife of François Fillon has been formally put under investigation in the fake jobs scandal that has poisoned her husband’s political career.