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US general in Central Asia visit

By Rayhan Demytrie
BBC News, Almaty, Kazakhstan

Gen David Petraeus, pictured on 13 December 2008
It is the general's first visit to the region in his current position

The top US military commander for the Middle East and Central Asia has denied reports the US is planning to open a military base in Kazakhstan.

Speaking in the Kazakh capital, Astana, Gen David Petraeus also said the US had no plans to withdraw its military presence from neighbouring Kyrgyzstan.

The general is in Kazakhstan for talks on the role of Central Asian states in supporting America's Afghan operations.

It is his first visit to the region since his appointment last year.

Afghan route

Gen Petraeus and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev discussed the partnership between their countries, and Kazakhstan's role in supporting US operations in Afghanistan.

Kazakhstan has recently signed an agreement allowing the transit of non-military US supplies to Afghanistan.

Map

The US is currently seeking alternative supply routes for Nato forces in Afghanistan.

Most of its supplies go via Pakistan's volatile North-West Frontier Province, but the rise in Taleban attacks in the region has forced the Pentagon to look for safer routes.

This tour comes at a time when Gen Petraeus is preparing a major review of US strategy in Afghanistan.

The commander pointed out recently that peace and stability in Afghanistan was incomplete without improving relations with the country's neighbours.

Three out of five Central Asian states share borders with Afghanistan, and the US has a military base in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan.

Gen Petraeus said the recent speculation in the press that the Kyrgyz government would demand the withdrawal of US forces from its territory was groundless.



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