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Brussels - Apr 19, 2012 - 15:08

Last modified: 19 Apr 2012 12:08

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary general of NATO, speaking at a press conference in Belgium, has denied Russian charges that the timeline for the withdrawal of international forces in Afghanistan is "artificial".

"We have not set any artificial timeline ... it was President Karzai himself who outlined a road map" for the gradual transition of security to Afghan forces, Rasmussen said to reporters gathered in Brussels on Thursday.

The timeline, said Rasmussen, "has been carefully examined, carefully discussed with our Afghan partners".

Rasmussen went to say that Russia, calling for a permanent seat in ISAF discussions, has a "very privileged partnership with NATO" when it comes to operations in Afghanistan. 

Referring to that position, the NATO chief also called on Russia, China, and other nations in the region to help contribute to funding of Afghan sources beyond the December 2014 withdrawal date.

The NATO chief also reiterated recent statements by US ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, that "terrorists attacking Afghanistan ... do have safe havens in Pakistan", and that ensuring stability in their neighbour to the north would be in Islamabad's interest as well as Kabul's.