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Russia Hosts Regional Forum, Denies Efforts to Rebuild Soviet Empire

Russia on Wednesday hosted leaders of five other former Soviet nations for security and economic talks, while emphatically rejecting U.S. claims that Moscow is attempting to rebuild the Soviet empire.

President Vladimir Putin met at the Kremlin with the leaders of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, in what is known as the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Moscow has touted the fledgling security organization as a counterpoint to NATO, but the organization remains fraught with differences.

Uzbekistan, another member of the organization, officially quit the grouping on Wednesday.

The meeting was followed by economic talks among leaders of the same countries, minus Armenia.

Mr. Putin has described the grouping as a precursor to a future Eurasian Economic Union, which he envisions by 2015.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton angered Russia earlier this month, warning that Moscow is, in her words, "trying to re-Sovietize" Eastern Europe by developing the regional trade bloc. She said Washington is working "to slow it down or prevent it."

The Associated Press quotes Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as rejecting Clinton's contention. He described economic integration efforts as a natural response to global market uncertainties.

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