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US in Contact with Kyrgyz Factions, Urges Calm, Respect for Human Rights

U.S. diplomats are reaching out to leaders of the political opposition and of the apparently-deposed government of Kyrgyzstan, urging that the political crisis there be resolved peacefully. The State Department says U.S. diplomatic recognition of Kyrgyzstan is unaffected.

The Obama administration is publicly appealing for the restoration of calm in Bishkek and other affected areas in Kyrgyzstan, while urging senior figures on both sides in the political crisis to settle the dispute without further violence.

The State Department says a senior diplomat from the U.S. embassy in Bishkek met Thursday with former Kyrgyz foreign minister Rosa Otunbayeva, leader of the interim administration that says it now controls the government.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake met here with Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev, who was en route to Washington for previously scheduled meetings with U.S. officials when the government of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was apparently toppled.

At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said there has been no U.S. contact with Mr. Bakiyev, who left the Kyrgyz capital on Wednesday, but said he would not resign.

Crowley said it was not the United States' role to call on Mr. Bakiyev to formally leave office.

"There is a president who has not yielded power," said P.J. Crowley. "There is an interim leadership that claims to be in charge of the government. We are talking to both. It is not for us to take sides one way or the other. Our interest is with the people of Kyrgyzstan and a peaceful resolution of the situation. We met with the foreign minister because he was arriving here to participate in scheduled talks that obviously had been postponed."

Crowley said U.S. diplomatic recognition of Kyrgyzstan was not an issue in the crisis because the government was not ousted by a military coup.

A senior U.S. official told reporters that Assistant Secretary Blake's meeting with the foreign minister was brief and non-substantive because Saudabayev had not been in recent contact with officials in Bishkek.

The son of the president, Maxim Bakiyev, was part of the Kyrgyz delegation to Washington. But he did not meet with U.S. officials.

The senior official said in her conversation with the U.S. chargé d'affaires in Bishkek that interim leader Otunbayeva made no demands of the United States and did not call for changes in the agreement under which the United States uses the Manas airbase near Bishkek.

The base, a key transit hub for U.S. and allied military flights to Afghanistan, has curtailed operations in the wake of the unrest, but it remains open.

The U.S. embassy in Bishkek also continues to operate, but it did not conduct routine public business on Thursday. The State Department says no Americans have been harmed or threatened during the clashes.

An spokesman in President Obama's delegation in Prague, where he signed a nuclear arms reduction treaty with his Russian counterpart on Thursday, said the upheaval in Bishkek was not an anti-American coup. He added that he the United States does not believe it was Russian-sponsored.