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Uzbekistan is First Stop on Powell's Central Asia Tour - 2001-12-07


US Secretary of State Colin Powell was traveling to the Central Asian country of Uzbekistan Friday as part of efforts to build support for the war against terrorism.

Uzbekistan is the first stop on Mr. Powell's Central Asian tour, which will later take him to Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. The trip is part of U.S. efforts to maintain support for the war against terrorism in Afghanistan.

In Uzbekistan, Mr. Powell is scheduled to meet with President Islam Karimov for discussions on the war in Afghanistan and efforts to rebuild the country now that the Taleban have been removed from power. Uzbekistan, which shares a 137-kilometer long border with Afghanistan, has already provided considerable support to the U.S. military campaign. About 1,500 soldiers from the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division are stationed in the southern part of the country, near the border with Afghanistan.

Other Central Asian countries have pledged to support the United States in its campaign. Kyrgyzystan has said it would allow the United States and its allies to use Kyrgyz airfields for military operations in Afghanistan. The United States is also expected to call on Central Asian countries when peacekeeping troops are sent into Afghanistan, something that could happen fairly soon.

During a meeting with NATO leaders in Brussels, Mr. Powell said the United States and other members of the U.S. led military coalition are working on a plan to send peacekeeping troops to Afghanistan within a few weeks. But Friday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said peacekeepers should only be sent into Afghanistan with the approval of the country's interim government.

Mr. Powell arrives in Moscow on Sunday for two days of talks, during which the subject of peacekeeping in Afghanistan is likely to come up.

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