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Rice: Only Course for Kyrgyzstan is Political Dialogue Leading to Stable Democracy

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, leading U.S. diplomacy contacts on Kyrgyzstan, says the only course for the troubled Central Asian country is political dialogue leading to a stable democracy. U.S. officials are cautiously optimistic about the course of events in Bishkek following the reported ouster of President Askar Akayev.

U.S. officials say their biggest worry is over the danger of uncontrolled political chaos in Kyrgyzstan following the apparent overthrow of Mr. Akayev.

They say they are somewhat reassured about the situation thus far, given that the Kyrgyz parliament has stepped up to assume a lead role, naming an acting president and discussing new elections.

The events in Bishkek triggered an urgent round of U.S. diplomatic contacts led by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She discussed the situation with President Bush and foreign officials, including British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, in his capacity as rotating chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

At a news conference with Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, Secretary Rice said the OSCE is playing the lead role in international efforts to shepherd events in Kyrgyzstan toward a peaceful democratic outcome.

She dismissed suggestions of a clash of interests between the United States and Russia over the unrest in the former Soviet republic, and said there is an international consensus on the direction that country should take:

"We have noted that there is a united view, I believe in Europe including the Russians, that the keys here are that everybody should forego violence," she said. "There should simply be no violence here, that the only course is for political dialogue, that we should not at this point try to prejudge how events are going to come out on the ground, but simply to hold out in front of the Kyrgyz people a desire for a process that will lead them to the development of the next stages in their democratic process."

Ms. Rice said the Kyrgyz people, like others around the world, have a desire and aspiration for freedom and democracy, and that she and her Greek counterpart agreed that the responsibility of the international community is to channel this into a process that will lead to stable institutions.

She cautioned that an outline of how this will be achieved will not emerge on day one, and urged patience on the part of all those involved.

Earlier, the U.S. ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Stephen Young, told television interviewers from Bishkek the United States will be reaching out to Russia, which retains considerable influence in Kyrgyzstan.

Mr. Young said the two powers have overlapping interests, in seeking a stable Kyrgyzstan that is a bulwark against terrorism, narcotics trafficking and other negative trends.

Both also use air bases in the country, with the United States using the base at Manas, near Bishkek, as a staging point for operations in nearby Afghanistan.

Officials in Washington said the new U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Nicolas Burns, discussed the situation Thursday with Russian officials. U.S. diplomats were also in contact with key figures of the Kyrgyz opposition.