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Clinton Cautious on Blame for Kyrgyz Violence

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has reaffirmed U.S. support for Kyrgyzstan's interim government while urging caution in assigning blame for the ethnic violence that has swept the central Asian state.  Clinton discussed the Kyrgyz situation and Afghanistan Friday with Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen.  

Secretary Clinton says charges that the violence has been instigated by followers of ousted Kyrgyz leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev, and that some Kyrgyz security forces are taking part in it, have to be taken seriously.

But she says pending such a determination, the international focus should be on supporting the interim authorities in Bishkek and getting humanitarian assistance to those displaced by the violence, including ethnic Uzbeks taking refuge in Uzbekistan.

Clinton discussed the Kyrgyz situation with the Danish foreign minister, as Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Robert Blake, began talks in Bishkek after visiting the Uzbek border region.

Asked about possible ethnic cleansing by Kyrgyz forces at a press event with her Danish counterpart, Clinton said it is premature to make conclusions about the origins of the unrest.

"There are many moving actors and circumstances," said Hillary Clinton. "So our bottom line is; work with the international community to try to support the provisional government in bringing about a resumption of order, work with Uzbekistan which has opened its borders to tens of thousand of fleeing Uzbeks, work to get humanitarian  aid in as quickly and comprehensively as possible, and then see if you can stabilize the situation."

Clinton said she spoke by telephone Thursday with Kyrgyz interim leader Roza Otunbayeva and with Uzkbekistan President Islam Karimov.

As of Thursday, the United States had committed more than $32 million in humanitarian aid to Kyrgyzstan and affected Uzbek border areas.

Clinton's meeting with the Danish Foreign Minister Espersen was otherwise dominated by Afghanistan, where Danish troops in the NATO-led coalition have sustained significant casualties in fighting in Helmand province and elsewhere.

Asked about so-called "Afghan fatigue" among U.S. allies, the Danish official said despite the battlefield losses, her government strongly backs the NATO mission.

"Sometimes we forget why we're there," said Lene Espersen. "We're there for the safety of ourselves. We're there for the safety of Danish citizens and American citizens, because if we weren't there, we would get attacked by terrorists.  So it's our own safety that's at stake.  Nobody wants to stay in Afghanistan a second longer than necessary.  But it all depends on the ground security.  It depends on the progress being made."

Clinton said there has been considerable progress in Afghanistan in many areas including government capacity building, education and agriculture, but that is still a largely unreported story.

The secretary confirmed she plans to attend the July 20 conference on Afghanistan in Kabul, a follow-up to last January's Afghan donor conference in London.

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