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Kazakh President Pledges Firm Support for US Anti-Terrorism - 2001-09-24

Kazakhstan's president says his country is ready to allow the United States use of its air space and military bases in Washington's fight against terrorism. The announcement was the first pledge of firm support to come from a country in the strategically important Central Asian region.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev said on Monday that Kazakhstan is ready to support action against terrorism by all the means at its disposal. And he confirmed that such support could specifically include the use of airfields, military bases and air space.

President Nazarbayev went on to say that so far the United States has not made any specific requests. He said that the American leadership has appealed to many countries in Central Asia for help adding that if such a request were to be made to his government, Kazakhstan will answer positively.

On Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone with Mr. Nazarbayev and the leaders of four other Central Asian countries, in an attempt to build a united policy on how to help Washington.

The Kremlin has given public support to America's right to strike back against those responsible for the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. But Russia has also made it clear that it does not want the United States launching any military attacks from the Central Asian countries on its southern border.

There has been speculation that Mr. Putin has been trying to convince Central Asian leaders not to allow their countries to be used for that purpose. When asked if the subject came up in his conversation with Mr. Putin, President Nazarbayev said Kazakhstan is a sovereign state and that his government makes its own decisions.

Mr. Nazarbayev also said he hopes a coalition can be established that would work out details of the role each Central Asian nation should play. He said he believes the United States is most likely to request the use of his country's air space.

Kazakhstan's southern border is only about 300 kilometers from Afghanistan and military analysts here believe it could serve as an important staging area for any strikes against Afghanistan.