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Participants of Almaty Meeting Discuss Role in Anti-Terror Strike

Russian and Central Asian officials met in Kazakhstan Tuesday to discuss what role they should take in any possible strike against Afghanistan for last week's attacks in the United States.

At a meeting in Almaty, officials from Russia and five former Soviet republics - Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzystan, and Tajikistan - offered their support to the United States. But they gave no specific information about what steps they are prepared to take.

The Russian government is still a strong force in the region. If the United States were to use bases in the former Soviet Union, many observers believe it would have to first get Russia's permission. Russia already has at least 10,000 troops in Tajikistan along the border with Afghanistan.

Following Tuesday's meeting, the Russian representative at the talks, Vladimir Rushailo, who heads Russia's security council, said it was still too early to tell whether any former-Soviet republic would allow the United States to use bases or airspace in its territory for an attack against Afghanistan.

Though Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his support to President Bush after last week's attacks, many Russians are reluctant to get involved in what could turn out to be an attack against Afghanistan. The Soviet Union fought a decade long war in Afghanistan, ending in a humiliating defeat for the country in 1989.

Members of the Russian lower house of parliament, the Duma, met Tuesday for the first time since the last week's attacks. Gennady Zyuganov, head of the Communist party, summed up the reservations many Russians have about a possible war in Afghanistan. Mr. Zyuganov said Russia has no right to involve itself in a war in Afghanistan, having already suffered immense losses during the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan starting in 1979.

On Wednesday, Russia Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is scheduled to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington for talks that are expected to focus on the fight against terrorism.