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Kyrgyzstan need not choose between U.S., Russia - Rice


BISHKEK, October 11 (RIA Novosti) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday Kyrgyzstan did not have to choose between Russia and the United States because the two were good partners. Following talks with the Kyrgyz president, Rice said Kyrgyzstan should develop good relations with all regional economies while pursuing reform.

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev responded by calling Russia the republic's strategic partner. "Kyrgyzstan has maintained quiet friendly relations with all its neighbors, including Russia, its strategic partner," Bakiyev said, also emphasizing the importance of brisk economic relations with the U.S.

"Kyrgyzstan will not give preference to cooperation with Russia to the detriment of the U.S. and vice versa," he said, reaffirming the republic's bilateral and multilateral commitments.

Speaking at a news conference, Rice said the U.S. would help Kyrgyzstan implement economic and political reforms that would eventually transform it into a strong country with an increasingly important role in the regional economy.

Rice hailed Kyrgyzstan's progress toward democracy, calling the recent presidential elections the most honest and open in Central Asia, and praised its assistance to the antiterrorism coalition.

She urged efforts to curb local corruption and promised to help Kyrgyzstan join the U.S. Millennium Challenge aid program for developing countries that govern justly.

Bakiyev said fighting corruption was the country's main objective. "The fight against corruption is not a mere declaration - we plan to curb it considerably," the president said. "We have a lot of work ahead to reduce corruption and the shadow economy."

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