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Russia Calls On US to Pull Out Military From Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan - 2002-02-12

A senior Russian official has called for the United States to abandon its military bases in the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia as soon as the war in Afghanistan is over.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov says that while the deployment of American forces in Central Asia is necessary, Russia assumes that the bases are only temporary.

Speaking at a news conference in Moscow, Mr. Ivanov said Russia's concern about the American presence in the area should not be exaggerated and his country expects that the anti-terrorism campaign will not end quickly.

Mr. Ivanov said the euphoria about crushing the Taleban and al-Qaida is premature. He said both organizations are waiting for the chance to make their presence known.

The Russian official also said his country is taking Pentagon officials at their word that the U.S. bases are only temporary and will not remain once the anti-terrorism campaign is over.

Recently some senior Russian officials have expressed concern that the United States might replace Russia as the most influential power in the region.

Last year, American troops set up bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan as part of Washington's campaign against the Taleban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan. Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to welcome the American presence in the Central Asia has gone a long way to improve relations between Russia and the United States.

Mr. Ivanov spoke following talks with General Mohammad Fahim, Afghanistan's interim defense minister. The Russian official said Moscow would provide military aid to Afghanistan in the form of spare parts for the Soviet-built weapons, training aircraft and transport helicopters for the Afghan air force.