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Uzbekistan ready to allow Russian military units on its territory


MOSCOW, June 30 (RIA Novosti) - The main result of Uzbek President Islam Karimov's Moscow visit was that Uzbekistan may allow Russia to deploy its military units on its territory if the Central Asian situation becomes destabilized, today's issue of an opposition newspaper, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, reported.

Karimov's visit was semi-official and Russian President Vladimir Putin received him at his residence outside Moscow rather than in the Kremlin. The sides did not make any sensational political statements and no documents were signed.

According to the paper's sources, Karimov and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov did sign an important document.

The establishment of a Russian military base in Uzbekistan was discussed on Moscow's initiative, as Russia is interested in closer military cooperation with Tashkent, taking it to a higher level than weapons and hardware exports, and subsequent modernization.

The Russian military presence left Karimov in a tight spot, and he declined to give a straight answer. He merely said that Uzbekistan was not yet prepared to allow a permanent Russian military contingent to be based in the country. A well-informed Defense Ministry source told the paper that the Uzbek leader had promised Tashkent could provide about ten airfields to Russia if the Central Asian situation became destabilized. The appropriate document was signed during the talks.

According to some sources, Tashkent is ready to revise a 25-year Uzbek-U.S. agreement on using the Khanabad military base. Uzbekistan has therefore decided to modify its foreign-policy vector and to shift its gaze in the direction of Russia. Uzbekistan may well become Russia's main Central Asian ally.

On June 29, the U.S. House of Representatives excluded Uzbekistan from the U.S. foreign military-assistance program. Tashkent will therefore have to rely on Moscow's economic and military assistance.

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