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Russia May Let U.S. Ship Weapons

Russia will consider allowing the United States and NATO to ship weaponry across its territory to Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday.

Lavrov spoke the day after a delegation of U.S. diplomats met with Russian officials in Moscow to work out logistical details for Western military supplies to cross Russia.

Moscow has previously allowed non-lethal cargo from European nations to cross its territory and recently said it would let the U.S. do the same.

Asked by reporters whether Russia would also agree to include weaponry or other such lethal cargo, Lavrov said "additional steps are also possible."

"Last April and May we discussed the possibility of using Russian military cargo planes to deliver to (U.S. and NATO) supplies," he said. "Any other agreements are also possible."

With Taliban and al Qaeda violence rising in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama plans to send as many as 30,000 additional forces this year.

But supplying the forces has become increasingly tenuous as insurgents intensify attacks on supply lines through Pakistan - the primary route for U.S. supplies. Transit routes through Russia and the possibly through the Central Asia nations of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan would serve as key alternatives to Pakistan routes.

Adding futher to the uncertainty is the decision last week by another Central Asian nation, Kyrgyzstan, to evict U.S. forces from an air base that is important to U.S. operations in Afghanistan.

U.S. officials suspect that Moscow, which promised billions in aid and loans for impoverished Kyrgyzstan, was behind the decision to close the Manas base.

A delegation headed by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Moon traveled to Moscow Tuesday to work out details of allowing Afghan-bound shipments to cross Russia.

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