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Bush Discusses Terrorism, Human Rights with Kyrgyz President - 2002-09-23

The Bush administration is praising the Kyrgyz Republic for its help in the war on terrorism, while urging its leaders to pursue democratic reforms. The two-part message was delivered during talks at the White House between President Bush and the president of the Kyrgyz Republic, Askar Akayev.

The meeting took place in private. After the talks, President Akayev told reporters they discussed domestic developments in his country, and the promotion of democracy.

A joint statement issued a few hours later focused largely on areas of cooperation in combating terrorism, drug trafficking, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. But it also stressed the need to keep the reform process going in the Kyrgyz Republic, and the importance of respect for human rights.

The meeting underscored the growing importance of the mountainous former Soviet republic in Central Asia, which is providing airport facilities for some of the U.S. forces fighting in Afghanistan.

President Akayev's government is facing both economic and political turmoil. An opposition movement is growing, and is unifying around complaints of government assaults on human rights.

Mr. Akayev has insisted the opposition does not represent the will of the people, and he has popular support. But in his meetings with both President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell he was reminded his support for fighting terrorism does not mean the United States will look the other way if he moves away from the path of democracy.